KEY POINTS

  • The U.S. threatened sanctions on 2 ships carrying fuel to Venezuela from Iran
  • U.S. officials informed Liberia, where the ships are registered
  • Both Iran and Venezuela have been circumventing U.S. sanctions by forming new economic deals

President Donald Trump's administration has succeeded in thwarting a planned Iranian fuel delivery to Venezuela by threatening sanctions against the shippers, U.S. officials confirmed Wednesday.

Two Greek-owned ships headed for Valenzuela with Iranian fuel reportedly aborted the shipment after the officials, who were able to communicate with the ships directly, threatened sanctions. The ships are registered in Liberia and its government was informed by the Iran Action Group of the State Department regarding the sanctions. The ships were a part of a convoy of five vessels, which were headed to Venezula from Iran. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, the two ships are now en route to the coast of Senegal.

Both Iran and Venezuela have been building a new economic alliance to circumvent the Trump administration's sanctions that have severely affected both the economies. Iran agreed to ship five tankers filled with $45.5 million worth of fuel to Venezuela.

Despite the speculation the U.S. Navy could interdict the ships as they were breaking sanctions in place against Venezuela, one of the them, carrying gasoline, reached the country safely and offloaded its cargo. Iran had threatened retaliation of the tankers were intercepted.

"We are two rebel revolutionary peoples that are never going to kneel before North American imperialism," Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro said in a TV address.

AFP reported that the first shipment arrived in Venezuela Monday (May 25) as confirmed by Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami in a Twitter post.

But the U.S. has been closely monitoring the rest of the shipments, warning of sanctions on those who "knowingly engaged in a significant transaction for the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport or marketing of petroleum."

Analysts say that a confrontation between Iran and the U.S. may once again ignite amid the latest developments.

"This is like a new one for everyone," Captain Ranjith Raja of the data firm Refinitiv, which tracks oil shipments by sea, said. "We haven't seen anything like this before," citing Iran and Venezuela's strategy against the U.S.

Iranian fuel shipment heads to Venezuela Iranian fuel shipment heads to Venezuela Photo: TELESUR /

The U.S. has sanctioned Iran since 1979 over the various issues, including its invasion of Iraq in the 1980s. For years, America has also imposed sanctions on the Venezuelan government and the authoritarian leadership of Maduro but Trump's expanded sanctions have drastically affected its oil supply when it used to be one of the largest oil producers in Latin America. Maduro has accused the U.S. of meddling and seeking to oust him to take control of its oil resources, which are the biggest in the world.