Iran's Secret Oil-Smuggling Ally: Tuvalu
US accuses Tuvalu of reflagging Iranian ships to avoid embargo
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2012 6:32 AM CDT
A photo of Funafuti, the main island of the nation state of Tuvalu, from Oct. 13, 2011.   (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

(Newser) Swamped with unsellable oil thanks to an ever-tightening embargo, Iran has found an unlikely ally—the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, which has been helping Tehran reflag its oil tankers, reports Reuters. Up to 22 ships owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company have been registered in Tuvalu, but now the United States is telling the island nation to cut it out. Allowing Iranian ships to register as Tuvaluan could be a "sanctionable activity," warned Rep. Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a sternly worded letter to Tuvalu's PM.

"This has the effect of assisting the Iranian regime in evading US and EU sanctions and generating additional revenues for its nuclear weapons program and its support for international terrorism," wrote Berman, who asked that Tuvalu cancel all registrations for NITC ships. Berman made a similar accusation against Tanzania recently, prompting its president to promise to force Iranian vessels to stop flying the Tanzanian flag.