US sells off Iranian crude oil seized off coast of UAE

The U.S. has sold some 2 million barrels of Iranian crude oil after seizing an oil tanker off the coast of the United Arab Emirates

The Iranian crude oil showed up in new figures released over the weekend by the U.S. Energy Information Agency, raising the eyebrows of commodities traders as Tehran remains targeted by a series of American sanctions. The EIA figures included just over 1 million barrels of Iranian "crude oil imports" in March.

The U.S. government brought the Achilleas to Houston, Texas, where it sold the just over 2 million barrels of crude oil within it for $110 million, or at around $55 a barrel, court documents show. The money will be held in escrow amid a court case over it.

At the height of trade with Iran, in July 1977, the U.S. imported some 26.5 million barrels of crude oil from Iran, then under the rule of the American-allied Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran saw those sales plummet to zero in the months that followed.

In the years since, imports again dropped to zero amid heightened tensions between the West and Iran over its nuclear program. Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers allowed it to sell crude oil again on the international market, but Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, forcing Iran into clandestinely taking its oil abroad and selling it, likely at a major price markdown.

Negotiations continue in Vienna among diplomats over trying to get both Iran and the U.S. to return to the accord, which saw Tehran limit its atomic program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Last October, EIA figures show the U.S. imported 1.1 million barrels of Iranian crude, likely through a similar seizure.

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Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.