Iran is Exporting Oil Despite U.S. Sanctions, Foreign Minister Zarif Says

Iran has successfully circumvented U.S. sanctions and continued to export its oil without any problem, ILNA (the Iranian Labor News Agency) reported, citing Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Speaking to reporters during a recent visit to the holy city of Qom, Mr. Zarif said: “We know it is highly unlikely that the U.S. will extend the six-month exemptions on imports of oil by China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey beyond May. Therefore, we have taken effective measures to protect our economy and interests once the deadline has passed. These eight countries’ oil imports exceed the limit set by the U.S. Hopefully, the trend will continue in the coming months. U.S. sanctions have not prevented Iran from selling its oil. America realizes that it is only part of a much larger world.”

Zarif described a recent visit to Tehran by Peter Fischer, the head of the Instrument to Support Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), as “positive and fruitful.” Mr. Fischer met with Abdolnaser Hemmati, the governor of Iran’s Central Bank, and other senior government officials and business executives.

“God willing, INSTEX will help the private sector and Iran’s future trade with Europe,” Zarif said.

INSTEX is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) established in January 2019 by France, Germany, and the United Kingdom to facilitate non-dollar trade with Iran. It will primarily help smaller companies which have almost no dealings with America. It will not, however, enable larger companies with significant business interests in the U.S. to bypass the sanctions.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh recently noted that the country’s oil exports had become a political and national security issue. According to Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, the head of the Planning and Budget Organization, Iran’s oil revenue has dropped by nearly 35 percent since the sanctions went into effect in early November. Ultimately, the SPV may prove to be no more than a vehicle to help Iran import medicine and agricultural products.

In an interview with the Tasnim news agency on March 20, Russia’s ambassador to Tehran Levan Dzhagaryan said: “SPV is not a straightforward proposition. It is a complicated mechanism. Europeans are in a difficult position. They remain committed to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal] as long as Tehran fulfills its part, but they are also under immense pressure from the U.S.”

“Russia would join INSTEX if asked,” Mr. Dzhagaryan noted. “China and India must also do their part. Iran’s primary concern is its oil export. We have to wait and see how things will pan out, but I am not very optimistic. I hope I am wrong. God willing, the  Europeans will succeed.”

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]