US security adviser: Iranian tanker seized by UK now off Syria coast

US national security adviser John Bolton on Friday shared a satellite image of an Iranian tanker off the coast of Syria, after the Iranian government denied that it was the vessel’s final destination.

The Iranian tanker– Adrian Darya 1, formerly known as the Grace 1 — was seized in July by the UK in Gibraltar, due to evidence that the vessel was attempting to carry oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn’t headed to Syria is in denial,” Bolton wrote on Twitter, along with a satellite picture from DigitalGlobe timestamped September 6 showing the tanker two nautical miles away from the Tartus Naval Base in Syria.

“Tehran thinks it’s more important to fund the murderous Assad regime than provide for its own people. We can talk, but Iran’s not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror,” Bolton added.

There have been heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran since President Donald Trump withdrew the US out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, and later reimposed all sanctions lifted under the 2015 agreement. This week, the Trump administration further ratcheted up pressure on Iran, announcing a reward program to disrupt Tehran’s financial operations as well as confirming it had offered to pay tanker captains if they helped the United States impound Iranian vessels carrying Iranian oil and unveiling a new wave of sanctions.

On July 4, British Royal Marines and Gibraltar authorities stormed Adrian Darya-1 while it was in territorial waters of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on the edge of southern Spain.

Spain’s acting foreign minister, Josep Borrell, said at the time that the US had asked the UK to intercept the ship.

Iran called the seizure of the tanker “illegal” and an act of “piracy.” Iran also denied that the ship was headed for Syria.

Two weeks later, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, in what has been widely regarded as an act of retaliation.

Gibraltar’s Supreme Court released the Adrian Darya-1 on August 18, despite efforts from the US to block the ship’s release.

Gibraltar claimed it received assurances from Iran and the owners of the oil that, were the tanker to be released, its cargo would not be taken to Syria.

Iran disputed Gibraltar’s account and insisted it had made no such commitments.

“Iran has made no commitment that the ship would not go to Syria because from the early hours of the tanker’s detention, we announced that Syria was not its destination and we have upheld the same … and reiterated that it was nobody’s business even if it was Syria,” the country’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said, according to semi-official Tasnim news.

CNN’s Amir Vera, Karen Smith, Tim Lister, Gena Somra, Eliza Mackintosh, Sheena McKenzie and Mary Kay Mallonee contributed to this report.