Turkish FM: Iranian Tanker Headed to Lebanon, Not Turkey

(AP/Reuters) -
An Iranian flag flies on Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, before being renamed Adrian Darya 1, as it sits anchored after the Supreme Court of the British territory lifted its detention order, in the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain, August 18. (Reuters/Jon Nazca)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday an Iranian oil tanker, now in waters south of Turkey and at the center of a confrontation between Washington and Tehran, was headed for Lebanon.

Tracking site Marine Traffic showed earlier on Friday that the Adrian Darya, formerly called Grace 1, had changed course again and was headed for the southeastern Turkish port of Iskenderun, further obscuring where its 2.1 million barrels of oil will go.

However, mariners can input any destination into the AIS, so Turkey may not be its true destination. On Aug. 24, it had listed its destination as Mersin, Turkey, before removing that from its system. Earlier, it had said it was going to Greece.

The tanker’s detention and later release by Gibraltar has fueled the growing tensions between Iran and the U.S. after President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago.

In the time since, Iran has lost billions of dollars in business deals allowed by the deal as the U.S. re-imposed and created sanctions largely blocking Tehran from selling crude oil aboard, a crucial source of hard currency for the Islamic Republic.

In U.S. federal court documents, authorities allege the Adrian Darya’s true owner is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organization answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The U.S. declared the Guard a foreign terror organization in April, the first time America named a military force of a nation as such, giving it the legal power to issue a warrant for the vessel’s seizure. However, that would require another nation to acknowledge the writ.

On Monday, Iran said the oil on the Adrian Darya had been sold to an unnamed buyer. However, anyone buying it likely would be targeted by U.S. financial sanctions. Analysts have suggested Iran may choose to offload the oil onto another ship first, given the international attention focused on the Adrian Darya.