2 thoughts on “Syria: the tanker and the fuel crisis”

  1. Hard to prove the negative (that Israel/US/UK had no such suspicions). But the reason for avoiding the Suez canal route is clear: according to Reuters quoting a maritime intelligence source “such a large super-tanker would have had to unload its cargo and refill after passing through, exposing it to potential seizure.” There is plenty of evidence that the US want to prevent oil reaching Syria, some of it in the Voice of America report quoted in our posting, and Iran would reasonably have calculated that the Egyptians would be happy to make problems. In short, so far at least a case for Occam’s razor.
    The story still has legs. Gibraltar had introduced a new regulation extending its ship-seizure powers the day before Grace 1 was detained, suggesting a tipoff. A British destroyer HMS Duncan, en route through the Red Sea to the Gulf, was warned by Saudi forces that they had spotted a Blowfish (speedboat packed with explosives) in its path, presumably controlled by the Houthis. The leading Madrid newspaper El País complained that “The US partnered with London, not Madrid”. The Israeli NGO Shurat HaDin has asked the Gibraltar Supreme Court for an injunction to seize the tanker and cargo and use the proceeds to pay damages to victims of Iranian terrorism, enforcing the 2017 judgement of the US District Court of Columbia making Syria liable for compensation totalling $178,500,000.

  2. I write from my usual position of ignorance.
    The offer to release the tanker comes several days after it was seized. And probably searched.
    The five weeks additional sailing time to go around the Cape (rather than via Suez) seems unnecessary if the tanker were only carrying oil. Iran is effectively unable to sell its oil for dollars but that does not cover gifts.
    It seems not unlikely that Israel / US / UK believed that there was something else on the tanker – long range weaponry, perhaps, maybe destined for Hizballah in case the US decides to attack Iran – and so sought to interdict it. A passage via Suez would put the GRACE 1 in areas where Israel has carried out operations before, on land and sea.
    Now that no “additional cargo” appears to have been found, the “misunderstanding” can be cleared up …

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