Wednesday, July 17, 2024
 
 

Putin’s Slick Iranian Oil Deal Upsets Sanctions

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Iran and six world powers discussed in Vienna this week concrete steps towards a deal meant to result in long-term curbs on Tehran’s nuclear programme. But reports of oil talks between Iran and Russia are posing another obstacle to reaching an agreement.

Russia reportedly plans to buy 500,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day, violating an export limit under the deal reached in Geneva last November. The multibillion-dollar oil deal could undermine the impact of years of US and international sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Talks with Russia for a deal to swap oil for goods have taken on a serious tone, National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) Director Roknoddin Javadi said, adding that tankers could start taking on Iranian oil from southern ports under the terms of a deal that would see more Russian goods imported in exchange. Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Zanganeh has said the country is bent on increasing the level of oil production despite Western economic sanctions.

Following Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and further deterioration of Moscow’s relations with the United States and the European Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin may be using Iran to get in Washington’s face. Russia’s potential oil deal with Iran could derail the P5+1 interim agreement with Iran.

With less than three months to go before an informal July deadline, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif said the talks on 8-9 April in Vienna are meant to start work on drafting the text of an agreement.

Before the Ukraine crisis erupted, Washington has said it was counting on Moscow’s help to reach a permanent settlement to Iran’s nuclear programme. But now Putin appears to be messing with the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1, which includes Russia, in an effort to increase pressure on the West.

“That is definitely connected,” Justin Urquhart Stewart, director and co-founder of Seven Investment Management in London, told New Europe on 9 April. “Putin is still a chess player and he sees this as an interesting way to try to aggravate the West who they are currently thinking they have maybe turned the corner with Iran. If they feel they haven’t turned the corner with Iran and Russia is actually effectively pulling them back, then that will further aggravate the situation. But it gives Putin another pawn to play in this unpleasant game of chess,” Urquhart Stewart added.

News of an oil deal between Russia and Iran already prompted US Senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk to write to US President Barack Obama, saying that if Tehran moved forward with the plan, Washington should respond by reinstating sanctions eased under a preliminary nuclear agreement, rigorously enforce reductions in global purchases of Iranian crude and punish any violations to the fullest extent of the law.

The Russia-Iran deal could also play into the hands of Iranian hawks that are not happy with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s rapprochement with the West. “The doves in Iran want to open more to the West. However, there are still hawks there and if Russia encourages those hawks with better trade deals then they could certainly make life more difficult and add to the oil price issues,” Urquhart Stewart said.

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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