An Iranian tanker carrying illicit crude oil docked in Venezuela during the weekend, just as the country’s socialist president Nicolás Maduro arrived in Tehran for high-level meetings aimed at boosting relations between the countries.
The tanker ship was carrying one million barrels of oil for the embattled South American regime that has faced energy shortfalls as a result of U.S. sanctions.
"The cargo is the third of Iranian crude supplied by Iran's Naftiran Intertrade Co (NICO) to Venezuela's state-run oil firm PDVSA following a supply contract providing the South American nation with lighter crude," Iran’s state-controlled media reported on Tuesday. "Venezuela has been processing Iranian oil in its refineries." Two other deliveries were conducted last month.
Iran’s presence in American waters is about more than just supplying an anti-U.S. regime with resources. Making the trek from Iran to Venezuela demonstrates that Iran is capable of long-haul operations into America’s backyard. The latest oil shipment arrived just as Maduro arrived in Tehran to ink a 20-year economic partnership with the country.
Maduro met with his counterpart, hardline president Ebrahim Raisi, to discuss an increase in bilateral ties and also toured Iranian historical sites, such as the Mausoleum of Ruhollah Khomeini.
Iran views Maduro as a friendly asset near the United States and has gone to great lengths to cultivate the socialist dictator. Venezuela, in exchange for the refined crude oil, has given Tehran heavy oil and fuel produced in the energy-rich country.
Iran’s illicit oil trade has skyrocketed since President Joe Biden took office after he relaxed sanctions as part of an effort to ink a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran has made at least $22 billion selling its sanctioned crude to countries like China and Syria.