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Netanyahu Warns Israeli Navy Could Take Action against Iran Oil Smuggling

Netanyahu Warns Israeli Navy Could Take Action against Iran Oil Smuggling

Friday, 8 March, 2019 - 07:30
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem March 3, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened Iran that the navy could launch operations against its oil smuggling operations, calling on the international community to stop Tehran’s attempts to circumvent US sanctions.

"Iran is trying to circumvent the sanctions through covert oil smuggling over maritime routes, and to the extent that these attempts widen, the navy will have a more important role in blocking these Iranian actions," Reuters quoted the PM as saying at a navy cadets’ graduation ceremony in Haifa on Wednesday.

"I call on the entire international community to stop Iran's attempts to circumvent the sanctions by sea, and of course, by any (other) means."

US President Donald Trump last year quit the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and reimposed some sanctions, aiming to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero.

It was not clear how Israel would stop Iran's shipping activities or whether it would risk direct confrontation at sea with Iranian vessels. The Israeli navy, whose largest vessels are missile corvettes and a small submarine fleet, is most active in the Mediterranean and Red seas, according to Reuters.

According to maritime experts, Iranian oil smuggling methods have included changing the names of ships or flag registries, switching off location transponders on ships and conducting ship-to-ship transfers offshore and away from large trade hubs.

"In a few days, the leaders of Cyprus and Greece will come here, together with... (US Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo, to advance a gas pipeline from Israel to Europe via these countries," Netanyahu said, hailing the role of the navy.

He and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman later visited the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system deployment site in Israel.

Netanyahu said: “This is a testimony to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States. The coalition for joint defense, which is expressed not only in words but also on the field, is exceptional.”

"We are very pleased with the cooperation and the US commitment to Israel's security, which President (Donald) Trump often expresses," he added.

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