Iran Mocks U.S. After It Reportedly Tried and Failed to Pay Off Oil Tanker

Iran's top diplomat issued his latest condemnation of the United States as President Donald Trump's administration resorted to offering cash to sailors in exchange for exposing the Islamic Republic's activities.

Financial Times published a report Wednesday quoting an alleged August 26 email from U.S. special envoy on Iran Brian Hook, in which he offered "good news" to the Indian captain of Iranian oil supertanker Adrian Darya 1—previously known as Grace 1—in the form of millions of dollars in exchange for steering the ship to a port in which it would be seized. Hook was said to have written in a follow-up email that, "With this money you can have any life you wish and be well-off in old age," but also warned, "If you choose not to take this easy path, life will be much harder for you."

The offer was reportedly part of a wider campaign aimed at the maritime community. Shortly after, the Treasury Department announced sanctions Friday against the ship and its captain, which were detained in July by U.K. authorities in Gibraltar for allegedly trying to transport oil to European Union-sanctioned Syria but released last month in defiance of a U.S. request to hold the vessel.

"Having failed at piracy, the US resorts to outright blackmail—deliver us Iran's oil and receive several million dollars or be sanctioned yourself. Sounds very similar to the Oval Office invitation I received a few weeks back." Zarif tweeted, referring to proposed White House talks that were rejected ahead of his own blacklisted by the Treasury Department. "It is becoming a pattern."

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An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya 1 oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar, August 18. The vessel was seized by U.K. authorities after being suspected of trying to transport oil to Syria, but later released in defiance of a U.S. request to hold the ship. JOHNNY BUGEJA/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. has rolled out mounting sanctions against Iran since withdrawing from a 2015 nuclear deal signed by the two countries, along with China, the EU, France, Germany, Russia and the U.K. The Trump administration has accused Tehran of continuing to pursue a nuclear weapon—something it has always denied seeking—as well as supporting militant groups and developing missile technology.

The agreement's other signatories continue to support the deal, however, even as Europe struggled to implement promised trade ties under the threat of U.S. sanctions and Iran began to surpass uranium enrichment limits in response. Tensions have particularly risen in the Persian Gulf, where the U.S. has bolstered its military presence and has accused Iran of disrupting commercial traffic near the world's most crucial oil chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz.

The Adrian Darya 1's seizure in Gibraltar came at a high point for regional unrest and was followed up weeks later by the Revolutionary Guards' detaining of the U.K.-flagged Stena Impero, which was accused of endangering maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz. Weeks after the Adrian Darya 1's release, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Abbas Mousavi told local state-run media Wednesday that the Stena Impero's case was still being reviewed in court, but Iran has agreed to release seven crewmembers of Indian nationality.

Despite being let go by the U.K., Adrian Darya 1 has remained in the U.S.' sights as it reportedly turned off its transponder heading toward the Eastern Mediterranean region, settling in the waters off of Lebanon and Syria. Iranian officials have insisted the ship was not heading toward Syria, but has argued that it had the right to as Iran was not subject to EU sanctions.

Back in Washington, Hook announced on Wednesday "a reward of up to $15 million for any person who helps us disrupt the financial operations of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and Quds Force," both designated terrorist organizations by the Trump administration in an unprecedented move against another country's armed forces in April.

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Abbas Araghchi (Center R), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Helga Schmid (Center L), Secretary General of the EU's External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) attended by the E3 2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on July 28 at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria. The group has tried to salvage the JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, in the wake of the U.S. exit last year. ALEX HALADA/AFP/Getty Images

Hook said the reward, also deemed "historic," includes information pertaining to the Adrian Darya 1 and "gives members of the maritime community a new tool to help us combat Iran's oil-for-terror network" He said that "over 100 individuals" have been paid as part of the Rewards for Justice Program, which has spent "over $150 million" in total. The program's official website listed examples of potential targets including front companies, entities, institutions and donors involved with the Revolutionary Guards' finances.

Mousavi said Wednesday in a tweet that he "strongly condemns" Hook's remarks, calling them a "hopeless and desperate attempt to influence the Iranian nation that will never succeed."

The news came a day after The New York Times reported that French President Emmanuel Macron had offered to extend Iran a $15 billion credit line in exchange for Iran reversing its uranium enrichment to comply with nuclear deal limits. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi appeared to confirm this Tuesday, reiterating that Tehran would only adhere to such limits if it was allowed to sell its oil or be granted credit for lost revenue.

Trump has said he was open to the possibility of meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani following Macron's mediation last month, even as the Pentagon attempted to form a coalition to patrol the Persian Gulf. While Rouhani initially expressed interest, he and other Iranian officials later maintained that such engagement would not be possible unless the U.S. returned to its own nuclear deal commitments.