Iranian oil tanker pursued by US says it is going to Turkey

While the crew of the Adrian Darya 1 changed its listed destination in its Automatic Identification System to Mesrin, Turkey, this is not their actual intention. (File/AP)
Updated 24 August 2019

Iranian oil tanker pursued by US says it is going to Turkey

  • The destination set in the ship’s Automatic Identification System is Mesrin, Turkey, but this might not be true
  • The US has a warrant in federal court to seize the ship and has been warning nations not to accept it

DUBAI, UAE: An Iranian-flagged oil tanker pursued by the U.S. amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington changed its listed destination to a port in Turkey early Saturday after Greece said it wouldn't risk its relations with America by aiding it.
Meanwhile, Iran sanctioned a prominent Washington-based think tank that led criticism of Tehran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers over its alleged "economic terrorism," something the organization described as a "badge of honor."
The crew of the oil tanker Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1, updated its listed destination in its Automatic Identification System to Mersin, Turkey, a port city in the country's south and home to an oil terminal.
However, mariners can input any destination into the AIS, so Turkey may not be its true destination. Mersin is some 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of a refinery in Baniyas, Syria, where authorities alleged the Adrian Darya had been heading before being seized off Gibraltar in early July.
Iranian state media did not acknowledge the new reported destination of the Adrian Darya, which carries 2.1 million barrels of Iranian crude oil worth some $130 million. Nor was there any immediate reaction from Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan deals directly with Tehran and Russia over Syria's long war.
The ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com showed the Adrian Darya's position as just south of Sicily in the Mediterranean Sea. At current speeds, it estimated the Adrian Darya would reach Mersin in about a week.
The State Department said it had "conveyed our strong position to ALL ports in the Mediterranean that should be forewarned about facilitating Grace 1," without elaborating.
The Adrian Darya's detention and later release by Gibraltar have added fuel to the growing tensions between Washington and Tehran, after Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers over a year ago over concerns about Iran's ballistic missile program and regional influence. In the time since, Iran 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 Grace'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.
The Adrian Darya had put its intended destination as Kalamata, Greece, even though the port did not have the infrastructure to offload oil from the tanker. The State Department then pressured Greece not to aid the vessel.
Meanwhile, Iran continues to hold the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which it seized in a commando-style raid July 19 after the taking of the Adrian Darya. Analysts suggested the release of the Adrian Darya would see the Stena Impero let go, but that has yet to happen.
Late on Saturday, Iranian state media reported the country's Foreign Ministry had imposed sanctions on the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies and its CEO for its role in promoting sanctions and "economic terrorism" against Iran. Reports accused the foundation and its CEO, Mark Dubowitz, of "intentionally" damaging vital interests of Iran through spreading lies and negative campaigning against Iran.
State media said the sanctions allow judiciary actions against the foundation, Dubowitz and Iranian colleagues. But like U.S. sanctions, they have little effect unless a person actively uses the Iranian financial system. Iran in recent years has sanctioned U.S. government officials and businesses in response to American pressure.
In a statement to The Associated Press, Dubowitz said his think tank "considers its inclusion on any list put out by the regime as a badge of honor."
Also on Saturday, the head of the Guard, Gen. Hossein Salami, said it had successfully test-fired a "new missile" a day earlier, but did not elaborate on the type of weapon, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday debuted an Iran-made air-defense missile system, the Bavar-373. In June, Iran shot down an American surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz. President Donald Trump came close to retaliating but called off an airstrike at the last moment.


Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

Updated 49 min 45 sec ago

Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

  • Law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting

TUNIS: Political outsider Kais Saied was leading Tunisia’s election with just over a quarter of votes counted, the election commission said Monday, in the country’s second free presidential vote since the Arab Spring.
Saied was on 19 percent, leading imprisoned media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was on 14.9 percent, and ahead of the candidate from the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party Abdelfattah Mourou (13.1 percent).
The announcement came after both Saied and Karoui’s camp claimed to have won through to the second round, in the highly divisive polls.
Local papers splashed photos across their front pages of law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting.
“An unexpected verdict,” ran a headline in La Presse.
Le Temps titled its editorial “The Slap,” while the Arabic language Echourouk newspaper highlighted a “political earthquake” and a “tsunami” in the Maghreb.
The initial signs point toward a major upset for Tunisia’s political establishment, in place since the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
It could also usher in a period of immense uncertainty for the fledgling north African democracy, the sole success story of the Arab Spring revolts.
Tunisia’s electoral commission (ISIE) reported low turnout at 45 percent, down from 64 percent in the country’s first democratic polls in 2014.
Late Sunday, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed called on the liberal and centrist camps to band together for legislative elections set for October 6, voicing concern that low participation was “bad for the democratic transition.”
Chahed, a presidential hopeful whose popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living, could well turn out to be the election’s biggest loser.
The election comes against a backdrop of serious social and economic crises.
Karoui, a 56-year-old media magnate, has been behind bars since August 23 on charges of money laundering and Tunisia’s judiciary has refused his release three times.
A controversial businessman, labelled a “populist” by critics, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.
His apparent rival is political neophyte Saied.
The highly conservative constitutionalist, known to Tunisians for his televised political commentary since the 2011 revolt, has shunned political parties and mass rallies. Instead, he has opted to go door-to-door to explain his policies.
He advocates a rigorous overhaul of the constitution and voting system, to decentralize power “so that the will of the people penetrates into central government and puts an end to corruption.”
Often surrounded by young acolytes, he also set forth his social conservatism, defending the death penalty, criminalization of homosexuality and a sexual assault law that punishes unmarried couples who engage in public displays of affection.
“It’s going to be new,” said a baker named Said on Monday, issuing a wry smile.
“We’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, what matters in Tunisia is the parliament.”
The first round was marked by high rates of apathy among young voters, pushing ISIE head to put out an emergency call to them Sunday an hour before polls closed.
On Sunday morning, senior citizen Adil Toumi had asked as he voted in the capital “where are the young people?“
Political scientist Hamza Meddeb told AFP “this is a sign of very deep discontent with the political class that has not met economic and social expectations,“
“Disgust with the political elite seems to have resulted in a vote for outsiders.”
Distrust of the political establishment runs high in Tunisia, where unemployment is at 15 percent and the cost of living has risen by close to a third since 2016.
Extremist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector.
Around 70,000 security forces were mobilized for the polls.
The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.