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An Iranian warship possibly en route to Venezuela that is believed to be carrying weapons and fast attack war craft could also be transporting millions of gallons of fuel in a ploy to get around US sanctions because the vessel is subject to sovereign immunity. 

The Makran vessel, which is a converted oil tanker that can carry three million gallons of fuel, is one of two warships currently sailing in the Atlantic Ocean after departing from the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas on April 29.

Despite fears the warships are carrying weapons as well as oil, US authorities are unable to stop them - even if they are violating sanctions like the ones imposed by the US on Venezuela - because the vessels are subject to sovereign immunity in international waters. 

Ships that are government-owned or operated are granted immunity under the United Nations Convention and cannot be subject to the jurisdiction of any country, unless they threaten the coastal state. 

Previous shipments of oil to Venezuela from Iran that have been carried out on commercial vessels have been seized by US authorities. The two warships - Makran and Sahand - that are currently in the Atlantic are operated by the Iran Navy.    

The Makran vessel, which is a converted oil tanker that can carry three million gallons of fuel, is one of two warships currently sailing in the Atlantic Ocean after departing from the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas last month 

Intelligence has already indicated that the Makran is carrying Iranian fast-attack craft typically associated with its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps, and has a mobile launch platform for helicopters

Sovereign immunity: Why the US can't touch Iran's warships 

US authorities are unable to stop the two Iranian warships currently sailing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The ships - Makran and Sahand - are believed to be carrying weapons and millions of gallons of oil en route to Venezuela.

The Makran vessel is an oil tanker that has been converted by the Iran Navy into a warship.

Given the vessels are operated by the Iranian Navy, they are subject to sovereign immunity in international waters - even if they are violating sanctions like the ones imposed by the US on Venezuela.

Ships that are government-owned or operated are granted immunity under the United Nations Convention and cannot be subject to the jurisdiction of any country, unless they threaten the coastal state.

Previous shipments of oil to Venezuela from Iran that have been carried out on commercial vessels have been seized by US authorities.

The two warships that are currently in the Atlantic are operated by the Iran Navy.

US intelligence officials have been tracking the warships as they continue to make their way closer to the United States.

Iranian state TV released footage on Thursday of the two vessels in the Atlantic Ocean with the outlet claiming they are currently more than 500 miles off the coast of Angola.

Undated photos obtained by maritime outlet USNI News on Thursday showed Makran - the converted oil-tanker - riding particularly low in the water. One of those photos showed Sahand, the other Iranian vessel, taking on fuel from Makran.

Maritime expert Sal Mercogliano said the photos indicated that Makran was filled to maximum capacity with oil. 

'She is loaded down to the gills. She is obviously loaded with fuel but much more fuel than what's needed,' Mercogliano said. 

'Those ships could circumnavigate the world dozens of times. But thing you can't stop her from doing is delivering that fuel to Venezuela – that's been the big issue, getting around the embargo and getting Iranian fuel to Venezuela. 

'No one is going to stop an Iranian Navy vessel from delivering that oil. That's one sure way of getting around the embargo. The embargo deals with commercial vessels not navy vessels. How would you even know?'  

Intelligence has already indicated that the Makran is carrying Iranian fast-attack craft typically associated with its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Corps, and has a mobile launch platform for helicopters. 

Satellite images from Maxar Technologies, dated April 28, showed at least seven of the fast-attack vessels on the ship's deck.  

The fast-attack craft aboard the Makran are the type that the Guard uses in its tense encounters with US warships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. 

The craft were most recently seen swarming US Coast Guard and Navy ships in the Persian Gulf back in April. The incidents only resulted in warning shots.  

Ships that are government-owned or operated are granted immunity under the United Nations Convention and cannot be subject to the jurisdiction of any country. The two warships - Makran and Sahand (above) - that are currently in the Atlantic are operated by the Iran Navy

The vessels are currently sailing in the Atlantic Ocean after departing from the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas last month on April 29. The ships were believed to have made it halfway through their journey as of Wednesday and were headed northwest across the Atlantic roughly 1,000 miles from Cape Town, South Africa, according to a US defense official

It wasn't immediately clear what Venezuela's plans would be for those ships. 

'If the boats are delivered, they may form the core of an asymmetrical warfare force within Venezuela´s armed forces,' the US Naval Institute said in an earlier published analysis. 

'This could be focused on disrupting shipping as a means of countering superior naval forces. Shipping routes to and from the Panama Canal are near the Venezuelan coast.' 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin raised fears on Thursday that the vessels could possibly be carrying weapons 

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin raised fears on Thursday that the vessels could possibly be carrying weapons.

'I am absolutely concerned about the proliferation of weapons, any type of weapons, in our neighborhood,' Austin told the Senate Armed Service Committee hearing. 

A senior Biden administration official told Politico that the ships are believed to be carrying weapons as part of a deal struck between Iran and Venezuela last year but did not specify what kind of armaments they could be carrying.  

US State Department spokesman Ned Price would not speculate on what the vessels were carrying, saying only 'that if this is an effort to transfer weapons or otherwise to violate its international obligations we would be prepared to respond'.

'We have seen the press reports regarding this movement,' Price said. 'We´re prepared to leverage our applicable authorities, including sanctions, against any actor that enables Iran's ongoing provision of weapons to violent partners into proxies.' 

The Biden administration have already been putting pressure on Venezuela - and Cuba because it is another potential destination - to turn the ships away, according to US officials. 

An official said the US views delivery of weapons in its hemisphere as a threat and that it will take 'appropriate measures' to prevent it.  

Iran maintains close ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (left) and has shipped gasoline and other products to the country amid a US sanctions campaign targeting fuel-starved Caracas. A top aide to Maduro has denied reports that the Iranian ships will dock there. Iran (President Hassan Rouhani pictured on right) has claimed that its warships will not stop at any country's port during its mission

'The delivery of such weapons would be a provocative act and understood as a threat to our partners in the Western Hemisphere,' the official said. 

'We would reserve the right to take appropriate measures in coordination with our partners to deter the transit or delivery of such weapons.' 

Iran maintains close ties to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and has shipped gasoline and other products to the country amid a US sanctions campaign targeting fuel-starved Caracas. 

Venezuela is believed to have paid Iran, under US sanctions of its own, for the shipments.

A top aide to Maduro has denied reports that the Iranian ships will dock there. 

During a news conference on May 31, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh refused to say where the Makran was going. 

'Iran is always present in international waters and it has this right based on international law and it can be present in international waters,' he said. 

'No country is able to violate this right, and I warn that no one makes miscalculations. Those who sit in glass houses should be careful.'

Iran has claimed that its warships will not stop at any country's port during its mission, which Iran's deputy army chief Admiral Habibollah Sayyari described as the Iranian navy's longest and most challenging voyage yet.

He did not elaborate on the mission's purpose.

News Source: dailymail.co.uk

Tags: topics index port during at any country’s country’s port any country’s biden administration carrying weapons fuel to venezuela believed the iranian navy the iranian navy the vessels because it delivering the vessels iranian warship are subject is believed official said the warships it will take as a threat prepared the embargo navy vessel partners

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Israeli PM: World powers must ‘wake up’ on Iran nuclear deal

By Ilan Ben Zion | Associated Press

JERUSALEM — Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opened his first Cabinet meeting on Sunday by slamming Iran’s newly-elected president and calling on world powers to “wake up” to the perils of returning to a nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Later in the day, Bennett warned Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers that Israel would not tolerate even minor attacks from the territory in the wake of last month’s 11-day war, saying “our patience is running out.”

Iran’s hard-line judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected Saturday with 62% of the vote amid historically low turnout. He is sanctioned by the U.S. in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Raisi has not commented specifically on the event.

At the Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Bennett said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had chosen the “hangman of Tehran” to be the country’s next president, a man “infamous among Iranians and across the world for leading the death committees that executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens throughout the years.”

Raisi’s ascendancy comes at a sensitive time for the region, as Iran and world powers ramp up efforts to resurrect Tehran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal, which granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

For weeks, Iranian and American diplomats have been negotiating a return to the accord in Vienna through European intermediaries. Talks resumed Sunday, the first round since the election that put hard-liners firmly in control across Iran’s government.

Israel was staunchly opposed to the landmark nuclear deal and welcomed then-President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from it. Since then, the agreement has unraveled, with Iran abandoning all its limitations on enrichment after the Trump administration restored crippling economic sanctions. Tehran is currently enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though still short of weapons-grade levels.

Although the White House has yet to weigh in on Iran’s election, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Sunday that the outcome was unlikely to affect nuclear negotiations because Iran’s supreme leader wants the deal restored.

“The person who makes the decision about whether Iran will go back into the Iran nuclear deal, will assume its nuclear obligations under international law, is not the president of Iran, it is the supreme leader of Iran, and that person did not change from before the election,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Bennett said Raisi’s election was “the last chance for the world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement and to understand who they’re doing business with. These guys are murderers, mass murderers.”

Israel, which is believed to have its own undeclared nuclear arsenal, has long opposed arch-enemy Iran’s nuclear program and has vowed to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.

Earlier this month, Israel’s outgoing Mossad intelligence chief signaled that Israel was behind a string of recent attacks targeting the country’s nuclear program.

Bennett heads a broad coalition of parties ranging from hard-line Jewish nationalists to liberal factions and a small Islamist party. His government was sworn in last week, sending Benjamin Netanyahu to the opposition after a record 12 years as prime minister.

Later on Sunday, at a memorial ceremony for Israelis killed in the 2014 Gaza war, Bennett warned Hamas that Israel “will not tolerate violence, we will not tolerate a drizzle.”

He appeared to be referring to incendiary balloons launched from Gaza in recent days that have set fields ablaze inside Israel. Last week, Israel launched airstrikes on two occasions in response to the balloons sent by activists mobilized by Hamas.

Last month’s Gaza war was halted by an informal cease-fire. Egyptian mediators have met with Israeli and Hamas officials in recent weeks to try and shore it up, but there has been no apparent progress on Hamas’ main demand, the lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed on the territory when it seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.

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Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from importing military resources, while the Palestinians and human rights groups view it as collective punishment of the territory’s more than 2 million Palestinian residents.

Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Washington, Isabel DeBre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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