U.S. offers up to $15M to captain of Iranian oil tanker it has been trying to seize for weeks
Adrian Darya believed to be off the coast of Syria, trying to offload its cargo of crude
The U.S. is trying new tactics in its battle of wits against the Iranian regime, offering cash for the captains of Iranian oil tankers to surrender their cargo to American authorities — including one name-changing ship on a slow motion escape across the Mediterranean.
Officials at the U.S. State Department have contacted a number of Iranian oil tankers, informing the captains that if they steer their ships to anywhere the U.S. can impound them, they would be rewarded with up to $15 million and a promise their safety will be assured.
"With this money, you can have any life you wish and be well off in old age," Brian Hook, who heads the agency's Iran Action Group, said in an email to Akhilesh Kumar, captain of the Adrian Darya — the tanker loaded down with two million barrels of Iranian crude that it is believed to be trying to offload in Syria.
"If you choose not to take this easy path, life will be much harder for you," Hook said, according to a report in the Financial Times, which broke the story.
The offer is being made to numerous other crude oil tanker captains, too, the State Department confirmed on Thursday.
Special Representative for <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Iran?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Iran</a> Brian Hook announced that the U.S. is offering rewards of up to $15 million for anyone who can help disrupt the financial operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Submit a tip by visiting <a href="https://t.co/mpTeFmrsJg">https://t.co/mpTeFmrsJg</a>. <a href="https://t.co/H5JM4PiYau">pic.twitter.com/H5JM4PiYau</a>—@StateDept
The tactic is an escalation of the ones so far employed by the U.S. in its dispute with Iran, but it actually harkens back to a program that has been on the books but dormant since 1984, and is known as the Rewards for Justice program.
As part of the counterterrorism program, the State Department uses financial resources to disrupt groups the U.S. government deems to be promoting terrorism.
The government of Iran has reacted to the attempted bribery by calling the new tactic "blackmail."
Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail—deliver us Iran’s oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself.<br><br>Sounds very similar to the Oval Office invitation I received a few weeks back.<br><br>It is becoming a pattern.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BTeamGangsters?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BTeamGangsters</a> <a href="https://t.co/B1oQTLghWZ">pic.twitter.com/B1oQTLghWZ</a>—@JZarif
Maritime watchers are convinced the Adrian Darya, which was seized in Gibraltar several weeks ago before being released, is attempting to offload its cargo of oil in Syria, something that would violate European Union and U.S. sanctions against the country.
Ship trying to hide its location
The ship recently turned off its transponder, a widely expected move that makes it harder to monitor its whereabouts and activities.
The ship went dark on Tuesday, but satellite imagery suggests it is still just off the Syrian coast, looking for another vessel to offload its cargo onto, for possible delivery to land.
Ship-monitoring firm TankerTrackers has identified a number of vessels that could be ideal candidates for such a transfer, but it's not believed that has already happened.