US sells Iranian crude oil seized off UAE


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – The United States has sold some 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil after seizing an oil tanker off the United Arab Emirates, according to court documents and government statistics.

Iranian crude oil appeared in new figures released by the U.S. Energy Information Agency over the weekend, raising eyebrows among commodities traders as Tehran remains the target of a series of U.S. sanctions. EIA figures included just over a million barrels of Iranian “crude oil imports” in March.

The oil came from the MT Achilleas, a ship seized in February by the United States off the coast of the UAE port city of Fujairah. U.S. court documents allege the Achilleas was confiscated under U.S. anti-terrorism statutes as Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guards attempted to use it to sell crude oil to China. The United States has identified the Guard as a terrorist organization since the administration of former President Donald Trump.

Prosecutors said the shippers tried to disguise the cargo as “Basra light crude” from neighboring Iraq.

The U.S. government brought the Achillea to Houston, Texas, where it sold just over 2 million barrels of crude it contained for $ 110 million, or about $ 55 a barrel, according to court documents. . The money will be put into receivership in the middle of a court case over it.

Asked Monday about the case, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said he had “no details” about it. “Since the days of former US President Bill Clinton, no oil has been bought from Iran because of their laws,” Khatibzadeh said.

At the height of trade with Iran, in July 1977, the United States imported some 26.5 million barrels of crude oil from Iran, then under the reign of American ally Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, these sales dropped to zero in the months that followed.

Sales picked up slightly, but fell to zero again after the United States banned the import of Iranian oil in October 1987 to punish Iran for attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war. . Then-President George HW Bush authorized a partial lifting of the ban in 1991 to fund a special account in The Hague, the Netherlands, to settle US and Iranian claims arising from the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran.

In the years that followed, imports fell to zero again amid heightened tensions between the West and Iran over its nuclear program. Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers allowed it to sell crude oil in the international market again, but Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal in 2018, forcing Iran to transport smuggling its oil overseas and selling it, probably at a major price drop.

Negotiations continue in Vienna between diplomats to try to get Iran and the United States to return to the agreement, which saw Tehran curtail its atomic program in exchange for easing sanctions.

Last October, EIA figures show the United States imported 1.1 million barrels of Iranian crude, likely thanks to a similar seizure.


Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran contributed to this report.


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