Iran’s deputy minister of petroleum for international affairs and commerce, Amir-Hossein Zamani-Nia, has said the number of potential buyers of Iran’s oil has increased despite US threats of sanctions. Zamani-Nia, however, said the countries that recently received sanctions waiver from the US would not buy even an extra one barrel of oil from Iran. “Regardless of US pressure, the number of potential buyers of Iran’s oil has increased due to the competitive nature of the market and growing cupidity for more profitability,” he said.
Zamani-Nia did not deny the adverse impact of US sanctions on Iran’s
petroleum industry and on the livelihood of Iranians, either.
US President Donald Trump pulled out of Iran’s historic nuclear deal
with six world powers last May. The agreement, formally known as the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed between Iran and the world
powers in July 2015 after nearly 12 years of intensive talks. International
analysts described the JCPOA as one of the best agreements over recent years.
Except for Saudi Arabia and Israel, each and every other country in the
world condemned Trump’s exit from JCPOA.
After the withdrawal, the US re-imposed sanctions that had been
previously lifted under the JCPOA. The sanctions targeting Iran’s petroleum
sector were re-enforced in August.
Iran’s crude oil exports hit a record 2.617 mb/d in April, just before
Trump ordered withdrawal from the JCPOA.
Zamani-Nia said the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum had mobilized all its
forces to blunt the impact of US sanctions on the country’s oil sector.
“Selling oil is currently the top priority of the Ministry of Petroleum
so that Iran’s oil market share, which was regained after the JCPOA, would not
be lost but be safeguarded,” he added.
He said the objective was to maximize oil sales in order to serve the
“Under four decades of embargo [since the 1979 Islamic Revolution],
National Iranian Oil Company has managed to work out creative mechanisms for selling
oil, but the US financial pressure and clout is such that China, India, South
Korea and all other countries which the US granted waivers to buy oil from
Iran, would not even buy an additional one barrel of oil from Iran,” he added.
Zamani-Nia drew a parallel between US unilateral sanctions on Iran and
growing corruption, trafficking and money laundering in the international oil
The JCPOA went into effect in January 2016, but the P5+1 group had from
the very beginning dragged its feet on facilitating Iran’s trade with the
world. P5+1 includes the US, France, Britain, China and Russia (the five
permanent members of UN Security Council) plus Germany.
Trump Sinking US Policy
French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May and
German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined the Russian and Chinese leaders and the
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to condemn Trump’s
withdrawal and express their firm support for the JCPOA.
The firm position adopted by the P4+1, the EU and the world was expected
to alleviate pressure on Iran, but it did not happen in practice.
“Politicians from across the globe, except for Saudi Arabia and Zionist
Regime, condemned the return of sanctions and reaffirmed Iran’s political
behavior. They have also expressed concerns over President Trump’s
non-diplomatic policy. However, it must be noted that international firms run
by the private sector do not follow their politicians,” explained Zamani-Nia.
He said it was normal for foreign companies to work for maximum
Referring to the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), designed by the EU to
facilitate trade with Iran, he said: “This executive mechanism will be
triggered and will be helpful, but it will not resolve the problem entirely.”
“In fact, every action the Europeans intend to do will be faced the US
influence,” said Zamani-Nia.
“Europe’s frustration in tackling the US unilateral sanctions on Iran
has resulted in profound awareness within Europe and raised expectations for
Europe to not remain the US’s political and economic hostage,” he added.
“Such awareness will change the quality of Europe-US relations and the
US politico-economic clout within Europe and everywhere else in the world will
gradually decline,” he said.
The EU is continuing to endorse implementation of the JCPOA, providing
Iran with support to fulfill its nuclear-related obligations. The EU is also
committed to ensuring that EU-Iran trade and economic relations continue to
benefit from the positive impact of lifting the sanctions. The EU has already
introduced measures to alleviate the effects of US sanctions on European firms,
and has announced the creation of a new mechanism, SPV, to facilitate financial
transactions with Iran.
Analysts are split on the SPV effectiveness. Some dismiss it as a
symbolic gesture which would have no effect, but some others say it would be a
beginning for Europe to end its dependence on the US financial system.
Pakistan Determined to Get Iran Gas
In the wake of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA and President Trump’s
threat to penalize companies doing business with Iran, many companies put their
negotiations or business on hold.
However, Iran kept making efforts. Iran’s Petroleum Ministry follows up
on oil and gas talks. One of these projects is Iran’s gas exports to Pakistan,
which have been delayed for years due to the US sanctions.
Zamani-Nia said the new Pakistani government has expressed its political
will to broaden its economic ties with Iran and is following up on the gas
“To that end, Pakistan has established two (financing and sanctions)
committees to facilitate the process of Iran’s gas exports to Pakistan. The
findings of the committee’s ongoing studies are expected to end in a meeting
between Iranian and Pakistani petroleum ministers in coming months to lead to
the materialization of the agreement,” he added.
Zamani-Nia said it was more profitable for Pakistan to receive gas from
Iran than from any other nation.
“The legal aspects of this agreement will be definitely discussed if the
petroleum ministers of the two nations meet,” he said.
In 1990, a “peace” gas pipeline was planned to be built connecting Iran
to Pakistan and India. It was expected to promote peace and friendship in the
Indian subcontinent. Under the initial agreement signed between the three
countries, a 2,700-km pipeline was planned to carry gas from Iran to India,
while cutting through Pakistan’s territory. Under the initial deal, 1,100
kilometers would be laid out in Iran, 1,000 kilometers in Pakistan and 600
kilometers in India. The IPI pipeline
would pump 150 mcm/d of gas to Pakistan and India – 90 mcm/d to India and 60
mcm/d to Pakistan. The project was alas killed.
Then, Iran and Pakistan were to build a pipeline between themselves.
Under the pretext of sanctions and foreign pressure, Pakistan has so far failed
to meet its commitments for completing its own section of the pipeline.
A deadline given to Pakistan to complete its own section of the pipeline
expired in 2014. Iran has however built its own section of the pipeline
stretching from the giant offshore South Pars gas field to the Pakistani
Islamabad claims it is making its best to complete its own section of
the pipeline, 700 km long, to be able to receive Iran’s natural gas to meet its
Iran failed to make maximum gain from the JCPOA due to domestic
criticism of the new model of oil contract – the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC)
– which the Petroleum Ministry developed to lure back foreign investors.
History will never forget delays in the endorsement of the IPC by
relevant bodies in the country to allow for the signature of oil contracts
before Trump’s withdrawal.
Zamani-Nia agrees with analysts who believe that Iran lost big
opportunities created post-JCPOA.
“Iran had 17 months starting from the implementation of JCPOA to the
US’s exit to benefit from this opportunity and the international community’s
support, but in practice it didn’t happen and the JCPOA opportunity to some
extent was lost,” he said.
Citing the example of Phase 11 of South Pars development, he said: “Had
the agreement with [France’s] Total been signed two years earlier and this
company had invested $1 billion in Iran, I assure you that it would not have
left Iran so easily.” “Even if Total left Iran, it would bring the project to
stage which Iranian engineers could continue up to the end,” he said. “Had Iran
concluded several international agreements instead of a single one, Mr. Trump
would have been more cautious in re-imposing the sanctions,” said Zamani-Nia.
He said he was not seeking any “blame game” in the oil sector, adding:
“Nobody predicted that someone like Mr. Trump would be elected US president to
target the JCPOA due to his enmity with [his predecessor] Mr. [Barack] Obama.”
“That is alas politics and everything is not predictable,” he said.
Courtesy of Iran Petroleum