DUBAI, United Arab Emirates >> A once-detained Iranian oil tanker pursued by the U.S. appears to be off the coast of Syria, where Tehran reportedly promised the vessel would not go when authorities in Gibraltar agreed to release it several weeks ago, according to satellite images obtained Saturday by The Associated Press.
The appearance of the Adrian Darya-1 in waters near Tartus comes as Iran was prepared to Saturday to announce what further steps it had taken to move away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, more than a year after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord.
Both events have raised tensions between Iran and the U.S. over recent months that have seen mysterious attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, Iran shooting down a U.S. military surveillance drone and other incidents across the wider Middle East.
The tanker Adrian Darya-1, formerly known as the Grace-1, turned off its Automatic Identification System late Monday, leading to speculation it would be heading to Syria. Other Iranian oil tankers have similarly turned off their tracking beacons in the area, with analysts saying they believe crude oil ends up in Syria in support of embattled President Bashar Assad’s government.
Images obtained by The Associated Press early Saturday from Maxar Technologies appeared to show the vessel off Syria’s coast, some 2 nautical miles (3.7 kilometers) off shore under intermittent cloud cover.
Iranian and Syrian officials have not acknowledged the vessel’s presence there. There was no immediate report in Iranian state media about the ship, though authorities earlier said the 2.1 million barrels of crude oil onboard had been sold to an unnamed buyer.
The oil on board would be worth about $130 million on the global market, but it remains unclear who would buy the oil as they’d face the threat of U.S. sanctions.
The new images matched a black-and-white image earlier tweeted by John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser.
“Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn’t headed to #Syria is in denial,” Bolton tweeted. “We can talk, but #Iran’s not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror!”