The pending confrontation over the fuel shipments from Iran to Venezuela, likely to occur in the next couple of weeks, will almost certainly cause a major conflagration in at least one and possibly two regions if the US attempts to intercept the shipment by force. Iran would almost definitely take a proportionate response – as its responses to the British capture of an Iranian tanker last year and the US assassination of Qasem Suleimani earlier this year made clear – and Venezuela may well do the same given the frequency, arrogance and destructiveness of US military and paramilitary attacks and provocations. Venezuela has announced that it will provide a naval escort for the vessels transporting the fuel shipments once they reach the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, though its naval forces are no match for the US in a worst case scenario (unless the country has managed to obtain intermediate range missiles, and/ or long range anti-ship missiles, from one of its allies, namely Iran, Russia or China)…
#Iran|ian #Oil #Tanker, “#Petunia” (MMSI: 422232600): 2700 km North-East from #Venezuela, in the #AtlanticOcean.#ISI #KINGFISHER – MULTISENSOR, MULTILAYER, #MARITIME #INTELLIGENCE SYSTEM: https://t.co/Ejp6ExiMd0 pic.twitter.com/pWm1f0Ewp4
— ImageSat Intl. (@ImageSatIntl) May 22, 2020
According to Resumen Latinoamericano one media report on the oil shipments:
“According to oil and security analysts, Iran’s shipment of 5 gasoline-laden ships to Venezuela could generate a scenario of unprecedented confrontation with US-led allied forces in the Caribbean.
Five Iranian oil tankers that appear to be carrying gasoline and similar products with a value of at least $46,000,000 were sailing to Venezuela on Sunday, part of an agreement between the two nations sanctioned by the United States amid mounting tensions between Tehran and Washington…
All five ships were loaded at the Persian Gulf Star refinery near Bandar Abbas, Iran. They then travelled through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea, according to data collected by the Automatic Vessel Identification System (AIS), which serves as a tracking beacon.
One of the ships, the Carnation, has been heading to Caracas since May 12, according to the AIS and according to data from the naval tracking portal MarineTraffic.com. Two days later, the ship changed its stated destination to “what is ordered”, although the ship maintains its route, in which it will leave the Mediterranean Sea and sail towards Venezuela.
Another vessel, the Forest, changed its AIS destination to “South America as ordered” on May 14.
The other three, the Faxon, the Fortune and the Petunia, appear on routes that could take them to Venezuela. Given the strong sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran, Venezuela seems to be the only country that would have nothing to lose by accepting shipments. Any other country could otherwise become the target of the economic and financial sanctions that the United States has applied incessantly since Trump was president.
Refinitiv Eikon analyst said the company does not have prior data on any previous Iranian gasoline shipments to South America…”
An editorial in Resumen Latinoamericano has analysed the strike force the US sent to the region last month (all translations from Spanish by the author).
“Destroyers, coastal ships, littoral combat ships, helicopters, patrol planes, aircraft capable of launching and directing attacks, ground troops of the Security Force Assistance Brigades … This is the deployment that Trump has launched against the Venezuelan government and people, with the crude excuse of an ‘anti-narcotics operation’…
The intention is to achieve a naval blockade against the government of Nicolás Maduro. Donald Trump promised to ‘double the capabilities’ of the Southern Command to carry out the operation. From the Pentagon they announced the support of 22 countries, as well as the European Command and the Pacific Fleet. An unprecedented deployment that will feature the following force of sea, land and air:
The Department of Defense has not specified which models it will use in the operation, but it is already known that the United States Navy is the most powerful in the world. Its destroyers are known around the world for being fast, manoeuvrable and resistant warships. Those of the Arleigh Burke model are the most popular. The only ones said to be operational at this time. These are 155-meter-long ships capable of ground, submarine, and anti-aircraft attacks. They displace up to 9,200 tons of weapons, and can be equipped with up to 900 missiles.
Coast guard cutters
They are boats of about 20 meters in length, conditioned for the crew to stay on board for extended periods. The US did not specify the models it sent to the Caribbean operation, but it is known that they have multiple functions: patrols, medical treatment, transport…
Littoral combat ships
They are relatively small vessels designed for offshore operations. The Navy website explains that they were designed to “be agile, stealthy and capable of facing asymmetric threats on the coast.” They are designed to execute offensive and defensive missions.
Security Forces Assistance Brigade Company
They are special units of the Army to “train, advise, help, enable and accompany operations.” They are made up of 800 soldiers. They are trained as a standard infantry brigade combat team. They are selected from the regular units of the Armed Forces and have received special training at the Georgia Academy of Military Advisors.
Patrol aircraft P-8
These planes are known as the P-8 Poseidons. They are developed by Boeing and carry out anti-submarine, anti-surface and intercept operations. They are armed with torpedoes and anti-ship missiles. They also launch and track sonobuoys, which probe the interior of the oceans. This aircraft can also operate drones.
Air Force E-3 AWACS
They are sentinel planes. They are also designed by Boeing. They provide surveillance, control, communications, and command functions. They have an “early warning and control system” (hence the acronym Awacs) that detects planes, ships and vehicles over long distances immediately. They are also capable of directing combat aircraft attacks.
Air Force E-8 J Stars
This aircraft also carries out surveillance missions. They track ground vehicles, planes, collect images, and provide “tactical images” to commandos on the ground and in the air. Its Stars technology “detects, locates, and attacks enemy armour at distances beyond the area of troop advancement”.
The US did not give details about the helicopters it will use in the operation, but these will be incorporated into destroyers and ships of the coast guard.
In addition to the recent deployments of maritime forces to the region, the US can count on the support of several military and intelligence installations located on several colonies of the Netherlands located adjacent to the Venezuelan coast (Bonaire, Curazao, Hato and Aruba). Meanwhile, its NATO allies France and the UK have also recently sent large military ships to the region, supposedly as a measure to counter the Coronavirus.
On the 9th of April Manlio Dinucci wrote:
“While NATO is dedicated to ‘fighting the coronavirus’ in Europe, two of the main European members of that military alliance – France and the United Kingdom – send warships to the Caribbean Sea.
In effect, the French amphibious assault ship Dixmude (L9015) of the Mistral class set sail on April 3 from Toulon – in southern France – to French Guiana in what French President Emmanuel Macron defined as ‘an unprecedented military operation’ named ‘Resilience’, supposedly linked to the“ war against the coronavirus ”. The Dixmude can play a secondary role as a medical facility with 69 beds, 7 of them equipped for intensive care.
But the essential role of this great French Mistral-class warship is that of a helicopter carrier – almost 200 metres long, it has a take-off and landing runway of 5,000 square meters [can carry 16 heavy helicopters or 35 light helicopters] – and an amphibious assault naval unit. Already positioned near the “enemy” coast, it can attack with dozens of helicopters and landing barges capable of transporting troops and armoured land vehicles.
Although somewhat smaller than the French warship, the British ship RFA Argus (A135) has similar characteristics. The RFA Argus set sail on April 2 for British Guyana.
Ultimately, these two European warships will be positioned in the waters of the Caribbean Sea, near Venezuela, where a US fleet – which includes several coastal attack ships – is being sent by President Trump, officially to “block” drug trafficking. Trump accuses the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, of “taking advantage of the coronavirus crisis to increase drug trafficking through which he finances his narco-state.”
The objective of this entire operation, backed by NATO, is to tighten the noose on the “embargo” that strangles the economy of Venezuela…
The final objective is to overthrow President Maduro – democratically elected by popular vote but for whose head Washington is offering a reward of 15 million dollars – and to establish in Venezuela a regime that would put that country back under the domination of the United States…” (With respect to the latter point see: https://maps.southfront.org/preparations-for-the-final-phase-of-regime-change-in-venezuela-will-the-united-states-resort-to-a-multilateral-military-invasion/)
TASS reported of the US maritime deployments:
“The US Navy and Air Force activity in the Caribbean Sea looks like attempts to impose a sea blockade of Venezuela, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.
According to the Pentagon’s information, the US Navy has set up a strike force in the Caribbean Sea and also redeployed three destroyers accompanied by a littoral combat ship and anti-submarine aircraft to that area, the Russian diplomat recalled.
“There has not been such a projection of forces in the region for a long time. Notably, a report published by the US Southern Command on the training of personnel indicates its preparation for landing on large floating craft rather than for the interception of small fast-speed boats, which, as was stated, are used as part of the operation’s goals declared by Washington,” Zakharova pointed out.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman addressed the following question to the US side: “Are you ready to confirm that the naval and aviation forces amassed in the Caribbean basin have no other goals except those stated as part of the so-called operation to prevent the illicit activity (drug trafficking)?”