A speedboat of Iran's Revolutionary Guards sails near to oil tanker Stena Impero at sea of Bandar Abbas, Iran, August 22, 2019. (Photo: CGTN)
Iran complained to the United Nations on Sunday and summoned the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, who represents U.S. interests in the Islamic Republic, over possible measures Washington could take against an Iranian fuel shipment to Venezuela.
A senior official in U.S. President Donald Trump's administration told reporters on Thursday the United States was considering measures it could take in response to Iran's shipment of fuel to Venezuela.
The oil sectors of Iran and Venezuela, members of OPEC, are both under U.S. sanctions. The Trump administration official declined to specify the measures being weighed but said options would be presented to Trump.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi passed on a message to the Swiss ambassador on Sunday warning against any U.S. threat against the Iranian tankers, according to a report on the foreign ministry website.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Iran "reserves its right to take all appropriate and necessary measures and decisive action ... to secure its legitimate rights and interests against such bullying policies and unlawful practices," Zarif wrote to Guterres.
"This hegemonic gunboat diplomacy seriously threatens freedom of international commerce and navigation and the free flow of energy," Zarif wrote. "These efforts by the U.S. to take coercive measures to disrupt Iran's oil sale is a dangerous escalation."
At least one tanker carrying fuel loaded at an Iranian port has set sail for Venezuela, according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv Eikon on Wednesday, and could help ease an acute scarcity of gasoline in the South American country.
Venezuela is in desperate need of gasoline and other refined fuel products to keep the country functioning. Venezuela produces crude oil but its infrastructure has been crippled during the economic crisis.
Iran news agency warns U.S. against any move on fuel shipment to Venezuela
Tensions between U.S. and Iran have escalated since 2018, when Trump withdrew the U.S. from a landmark nuclear accord and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran's economy.
It escalated further after Iran's supreme leader said Sunday that the U.S. will be expelled from Iraq and Syria and alleged that even Washington's allies "abhor" it now.
The U.S. "will not be staying either in Iraq or Syria and must withdraw and will certainly be expelled", said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to his official website.
Both the U.S. and Iran have weighed into Syria's conflict – Tehran backing the Damascus authorities, while Washington supported the Kurds – and both have been major geopolitical players in Iraq since the toppling of its former leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.
"Even the leaders of some of America's allies... abhor American statesmen and government, do not trust them and are indifferent towards them," Khamenei added during a video conference meeting with university students.
He claimed this was due to what he called the U.S.' "warmongering, helping notorious governments, training terrorists, unconditional support for the Zionist regime's increasing oppression and their recent awful management of the coronavirus" pandemic.
Both countries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 disease, with the U.S. recording the highest number of fatalities in the world and Iran battling the Middle East's deadliest outbreak.