Iran has quickly found ways to circumvent the EU sanctions imposed on its oil trade in July. After dipping sharply in summer of 2012, Iranian crude oil exports rose again by the end of the year.
So far, Iran’s December crude oil sales were the highest recorded since the sanctions were first imposed. Iran exported 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in December, compared to less than 900,000 bpd in September. Pre-sanctions oil exports stood at 2.2 million bpd in late 2011.
EU sanctions, introduced in January 2012 and put into effect in July, aimed to curb Iran’s ambitious nuclear program, which Tehran has insisted is only for peaceful purposes. The Iranian economy is heavily dependent on oil sales – the cuts in production lead to billions of dollars in lost revenue and a plunge in the value of the national currency.
Analysts believe that sales to Asia and the expansion of Iran’s tanker fleet helped the Islamic Republic circumvent the sanctions. In countries like China, India and Japan, Iranian oil constitutes more than 10 percent of the total crude supply – and demand from Asia is only growing.
“China is saying let’s up the numbers because no-one is doing anything about it and it looks like Obama has made a political decision not to go to war with Iran,” a senior source at a large independent trading house told Reuters.
Iran is also improving its delivery channels, despite the numerous bans and restrictions imposed by the international community.
“Iran bought a number of tankers from China and can now do more deliveries. It’s taken some pressure off Iran and facilitated tanker traffic and we are seeing higher exports to China,” analyst Salar Moradi at oil and gas consulting firm FGE told Reuters.
Meanwhile, a fresh round of US sanctions looms for Iran. Starting on February 6, US law will prevent the Islamic republic from repatriating earnings from its oil export trade. The ban is in addition to the already-existing restrictions, including the country’s removal from the SWIFT global financial service and an indefinite international asset freeze.
The new sanctions are expected to reduce export volumes to around 1 million barrels per day, the International Energy Agency predicted. However, analysts believe that further sanctions will not stop Iran from selling oil or pursuing its nuclear goals.
“What we have seen is that when Iran is pushed to a do or die situation, they have looked for creative solutions to get around sanctions,” oil and gas analyst Elena McGovern of Business Monitor International told Reuters. “The system will always find a way to cope.”
The international community has been failing to engage in constructive dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program. The so-called ‘sixtet’ of ‘5+1’ states – Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany – met three times last year with little to no results. The next round of talks has been stalled until a venue for the meeting is agreed upon.
“Some of our partners in the six powers and the Iranian side cannot come to an agreement about where to meet, behaving like little children,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. He stressed that Russian mediators “are willing to meet at any location.”
While the West has demanded that Iran abandon its nuclear aspirations, Iran refuses to back down: Tehran has seized every opportunity to advance its nuclear capabilities. On Thursday, Iranian officials informed the UN nuclear agency of its plan to use more modern centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
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Iran has officially begun pumping crude from an oil field it shares with it western neighbor Iraq, the managing director of the Iranian Central Oil Fields Company (ICOFC) says.
Speaking in a press conference on Tuesday, Mehdi Fakour said development and crude oil production from the Aban oil field has started.
Iran shares oil and gas fields with most of its neighbors, including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar as well as Oman and Turkmenistan.
The official noted that Iran has not lagged behind its neighboring countries in developing the fields it shares, adding, “Currently, ten drilling rigs are operating simultaneously in the country’s joint oil fields.”
Fakour also stated that since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year [March 20, 2012], USD1.2 billion of funds have been supplied by companies other than the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) for investment in Iran’s oil and gas projects.
Iran holds the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves.
The country’s total in-place oil reserves have been estimated at more than 560 billion barrels, with about 140 billion barrels of extractable oil. Moreover, heavy and extra heavy varieties of crude oil account for roughly 70-100 billion barrels of the total reserves.
Iranian energy officials said in July 2011 that as much as 35 percent of the country’s energy development budget would go towards the development of the shared oil fields.
China and Singapore will receive exemptions from U.S. sanctions scheduled to go into effect Thursday that would have cut off banks in those countries from the U.S. financial system for handling Iranian oil transactions, a source in the office of Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, a source in the office of Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) tells Security Clearance.
Secretary of State Clinton called Senator Menendez earlier today to inform him.
Under legislation signed by President Barack Obama In December, the United States will take action against countries that continue buying large volumes of Iranian oil through Iran’s Central Bank by cutting off financial institutions engaged in those transactions from the U.S. banking system.
– State Department released a statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
Today I have made the determination that two additional countries, China and Singapore, have significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran. As a result, I will report to the Congress that sanctions pursuant to Section 1245(d)(1) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 will not apply to their financial institutions for a potentially renewable period of 180 days.
A total of 20 world economies have now qualified for such an exception. Their cumulative actions are a clear demonstration to Iran’s government that Iran’s continued violation of its international nuclear obligations carries an enormous economic cost. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Iran’s crude oil exports in 2011 were approximately 2.5 million barrels per day, and have dropped to roughly 1.5 million barrels per day, which in real terms means almost $8 billion in lost revenues every quarter. When the European Union oil embargo goes into effect July 1, Iran’s leaders will understand even more fully the urgency of the choice they face and the unity of the international community.
Today marks an important milestone in the implementation of the NDAA and U.S. sanctions toward Iran. Following the President’s determinations on March 30 and June 11 on the availability of non-Iranian supplies of oil, as of today, any foreign financial institution based in a country that has not received an NDAA exception is subject to U.S. sanctions if it knowingly conducts a significant transaction with the Central Bank of Iran for the sale or purchase of petroleum or petroleum products to or from Iran.
We have been clear all along that there is a path for Iran to fully re-join the global economy. Iran’s leaders have the opportunity to address international concerns by engaging seriously and substantively in negotiations with the P5+1. I urge Iran to demonstrate its willingness to take concrete steps toward resolving the nuclear issue during the expert-level talks scheduled in Istanbul on July 3. Failure to do so will result in continuing pressure and isolation from the international community.
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India and South Korea have increased oil imports from Iran despite the United States’ plea for the two countries to reduce their dependence on the Iranian crude, says the International Energy Agency (IEA).
According to an IEA report, released on Wednesday, both Seoul and New Delhi sharply raised their oil purchases from Iran in January.
The rise in the purchase of the Iranian crude comes despite Washington’s appeals for a reduction of oil imports from Iran by around 15 percent in volume.
The White House is now concerned that it may have to impose sanctions on New Delhi for its refusal to cut back on crude purchases from Tehran.
Earlier on Tuesday, Turkey’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz announced that Turkey is continuing to purchase crude oil from the Islamic Republic.
Oil prices have remained high following Iran’s decision to cut oil sales to some European countries in response to the EU’s sanctions on the country.
On January 23, EU foreign ministers approved sanctions against Iran, including a ban on Iranian oil imports, a freeze on the assets of the Central Bank of Iran within the bloc’s states and a ban on selling diamonds, gold, and other precious metals to Tehran.
The US, Israel and some of their allies accuse Tehran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran has repeatedly refuted the Western allegations regarding its nuclear energy program, arguing that as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
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