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It has all the makings of a cheap thriller. An Iranian tanker loaded up with fuel has set sail for Venezuela. The government of moustachioed strongman Nicolas Maduro, desperately short of gasoline thanks to the wrecking effects of US sanctions, is said to be paying Iran in bars of gold for the emergency shipment. But US President Donald Trump needs to deliver a foreign policy victory as he steps up his campaign for re-election in November.
Dislodging Maduro would do nicely. What action might he take? But to Trump, academics agonising over precedents past and present can go take a running jump, thus the tenterhooks developing over the Iran-Venezuela situation.
The official also reportedly declined to specify the measures being weighed but said options would be presented to Trump.
There is no doubt that Venezuela under President Maduro is in a mess and that US sanctions have helped dump it there. Refinitiv Eikon vessel tracking data showed on May 13 that at least one tanker carrying fuel loaded at an Iranian port has set sail for the embattled South American country. Four other vessels of the same size as the Clavel, all flagged by Iran and loaded with fuel at or near Bandar Abbas, are about to cross the Atlantic Ocean after passing Suez and were yet to set their final destinations, the data also showed.
The smart money is on all four of these tankers also being bound for Venezuela. The Clavel shipment steps up visible cooperation between Iran and Venezuela. Since April, several flights from Tehran have delivered materials to Venezuela that Iran said would help the country restart the catalytic cracking unit at its , barrel-per-day Cardon refinery.