Iran prepared to retaliate if U.S. stopped Venezuela-bound tankers: news agency

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian news agency near the elite Revolutionary Guards said Saturday that the Iranian Naval Forces were preparing to attack US merchant ships in the Gulf last month if U.S. forces disrupted Iranian oil tankers in Venezuela.
Iran sent a five tanker flotilla to Venezuela's low-gas allies in May, and Tehran has announced it will continue deliveries if Caracas demands more, despite Washington's criticism of trade between the two nations, both of which are under US sanctions.
"According to reports from Noor News, the Iranian armed forces were ordered to identify and track several US merchant ships in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman following increasing military threats to Iranian ships heading to Venezuela," Noor News said on its website.
"Options for mutual action were immediately identified and monitored for possible operations," added the agency.
Iran complained to the United Nations last month and called on the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who represents the interests of the United States in the Islamic Republic, to take any measures Washington could take against the Iranian tankers.
The United States, which did not hinder Iranian tanker loads, is considering sanctioning dozens of other foreign oil tankers to trade with Venezuela, a US official told Reuters earlier this month.
Iran confiscated a British flag tanker in the Gulf last year after British troops arrested an Iranian tanker outside of Gibraltar. Both ships were released after a break of months.
In a warning directed directly to Iran, last month the US Navy warned Gulf seafarers to stay 100 meters from US warships, otherwise there is a risk of "being interpreted as a threat and lawful countermeasures subject to ".
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased since 2018, when US President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal with six world powers in 2015 and imposed crippling sanctions on the vital oil industry.

(Dubai Newsroom reporting; Ros Russell editorial team)
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