You may recall the Iranian oil tanker that was seized by the British in the Mediterranean and taken to Gibraltar because of suspicions that it was taking its cargo to Syria. It was released later over the protests of the US government that wanted to seize the ship. It has now been revealed that the US government tried to bribe the ship’s captain to take the ship somewhere where the US could seize it but he ignored them.
The US state department has confirmed it offered millions of dollars to the captain of an Iranian oil tanker which is at the centre of a diplomatic row.
Brian Hook, head of the department’s Iran Action Group, emailed the captain of the Adrian Darya 1 about sailing it somewhere the US could seize it.
According to the Financial Times, Mr Hook sent an email to the Indian captain of the Adrian Darya 1, Akhilesh Kumar, before it imposed sanctions on the ship.
“I am writing with good news,” the email read. The Trump administration was willing to pay the captain several million dollars to take the ship somewhere it could be seized by US authorities.
The emails reportedly carried a state department phone number to make sure the captain – who took over the ship after it was impounded – did not think they were fake.
Mr Hook told the newspaper that the state department was “working very closely with the maritime community to disrupt and deter illicit oil exports”.
Mr Kumar ignored the emails. The US then imposed sanctions on him personally when they blacklisted the Adrian Darya 1.
Its initial seizure sparked a diplomatic crisis between the UK and Iran, which saw Iran seize a British-flagged and Swedish-owned oil tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Gulf.
On Wednesday, Iran said it would free seven of the Stena Impero’s 23 crew members on humanitarian grounds.
“This is Brian Hook . . . I work for secretary of state Mike Pompeo and serve as the US Representative for Iran,” Hook wrote in an email to the captain on August 26. “I am writing with good news,” Hook explained in the email to the captain. The good news was that the United States would pay the captain several million dollars to steer the ship to a country where the United States could seize it together with its cargo of crude oil.
The Special Envoy provided an official telephone number to the State Department in Washington, DC to make sure the captain did not suspect that the email was fake. “With this money you can have any life you wish and be well-off in old age,” Hook wrote in another email, which also included a warning. “If you choose not to take this easy path, life will be much harder for you.”
According to the Financial Times, captains of other Iranian oil ships have received emails and text messages from Hook.
Allegedly, the captain rejected the offer. At least two days later he received a new email from Hook informing him that he was now on the United States sanctions list.
There are many things wrong with this attempt, apart from its farcical quality.
One is that the oil embargo on Syria was not a UN decision binding on its members. It was imposed by the European Union and it is not clear to me why other countries should have to obey such sanctions. Can the EU impose its will on countries anywhere in the world?
A second is that the captain of the ship was not just offered a bribe to hand the ship over to the US but was threatened with personal sanctions if he did not do so. To threaten private individuals who are just doing their jobs is wrong. What next? Ordering pilots of Iranian civil planes to fly their planes to the US or they would have sanctions imposed on them?
We used to have the case of pirates operating off the Somali coast that would take control of cargo ships and demand ransoms for their release. (They may still be doing it but it is not in the news.) It strikes me that offering bribes and threats to a ship’s captain to deliver his ship to someone other than its owners is very close to attempting an act of piracy.
These are the actions of a government that is drunk with arrogance.