The commander of the Revolutionary Guard said Iran “imposed its will” after sending fuel tankers to Venezuela and denounced the United States as a fading world power.
Major-General Hossein Salami said despite crippling American sanctions, Iran was still able to supply its ally Caracas with crucial petrol products last month.
Salami also chided the United States for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the protests over African American George Floyd, who was killed during an arrest by a police officer, in comments on Wednesday.
The Islamic Republic is “breaking the back of the enemies”, he said.
“By God’s grace, today we are witnessing the early and rapid decline of our archenemies, particularly the US. All of the symbols with which the US was presenting itself and was displaying an untrue image to the world are falling, and the US is tearing apart the image it had created about itself,” said Salami.
“Unable to contain the coronavirus, the US is today in the worst economic conditions.”
Brink of war
Tensions between longtime foes Iran and the US have spiked since 2018, when President Donald Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six major world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country that have battered its economy.
Things got worse when Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the previous head of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, was killed in a US drone attack in Iraq on January 3 near Baghdad’s airport. Washington blamed the general for masterminding attacks by Iran-aligned militias on US forces in the region.
Soleimani’s killing brought Iran and the United States to the brink of war. Tehran retaliated with a rocket attack on an Iraqi airbase where US forces were stationed.
Hours later, Iranian forces on high alert mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board.
Allied in sanctions
Iran has said it will continue fuel shipments to Venezuela if Caracas requests more supplies, despite criticism from the United States of trade between the two nations, both under US sanctions.
The US had beefed up its naval presence in the Caribbean for what it said was an expanded “anti-drug operation”.
Five Iranian oil tankers arrived in Venezuela in May to help ease fuel shortages, encountering no immediate signs of US military interference. Venezuelan authorities described “threats” from the United States over the shipments.
Seeking to deter further shipments of Iranian fuel to Venezuela, Washington has warned governments, seaports, shippers and insurers they could face measures if they aided the Iranian tankers.
The fuel from Iran comes at a time when the petrol shortage in Venezuela, chronic for years in some parts of the country, worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.
Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, but its production is in freefall, a collapse that experts attribute to failed policies, lack of investment and corruption.
The two nations have held a close relationship since late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez took power in 1999.