US seizes four vessels loaded with Iranian fuel

U.S. officials reportedly seized four tankers loaded with Iranian fuel and are transporting them to port in Houston.

A U.S. official confirmed the seizure of the four vessels, dubbed the Bering, Bella, Luna and Pandi, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, and explained further that the craft were seized without the use of military force. It wasn't immediately clear where the seizures occurred or which U.S. agencies were involved.

The Justice Department declined to comment to the Journal on the seizures. The tankers were all allegedly part of a scheme set up by an Iranian businessman affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard Corps., which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, to evade U.S. sanctions on business with Iran and its military.

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Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have continued to simmer for months following a U.S. strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, in January while he was traveling near Baghdad's airport in Iraq, as well as a retaliatory strike on a base housing U.S. troops.

Iranian forces briefly seized an oil tanker marked with a Liberian flag near the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, holding it for several hours before releasing it.

“Iran's use of its military forces to conduct an armed boarding of a commercial vessel in international waters constitutes a blatant violation of international law that undermines freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce,” responded the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) in a statement retweeted by U.S. Central Command on Thursday. “We call on Iran to articulate to the international community the legal basis for its actions. This type of reckless, aggressive behavior by Iran destabilizes the region and threatens the rules based international order.”

At a private fundraiser in recent days, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE promised to reach a deal with Iranian leaders within days of his reelection should he defeat former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Joe Biden should enact critical government reforms if he wins MORE (D) in November, according to video first reported by Jewish Insider.

“When we win,” the president says in the video, “we will have a deal [with Iran] within four weeks.”