Iran sees no reason to negotiate as US allows oil exports
Biden’s policy of not enforcing Iranian oil sanctions has led to a misperception in Tehran that a nuclear deal is unnecessary, according to an Iranian website.
The Iran Diplomacy site (not secure for a link), close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in an article by Mehdi Bazargan, a journalist wrote on Saturday that the hardliners of the Islamic Republic concluded that by exporting nearly a million barrels of oil per day at prices above $100 a barrel, Iran can generate enough revenue equivalent to a full export volume, without the need to agree to the relaunch of the Comprehensive Plan of Action spouse, JCPOA.
After former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Obama-era deal in May 2018 and began imposing oil sanctions on Iran, crude exports soared from more than two million barrels per day to less than 300,000 in 2019. The drop came at a time when oil was much cheaper and left the Islamic Republic with a severe shortage of foreign exchange to fund its imports.
This led to an immediate rise in the rate of inflation and a historic fall in the value of the Iranian currency, with a deep recession gripping the economy for at least two years.
Nonetheless, Tehran has refused to negotiate with the Trump administration, which has been quick to call its sanctions “maximum pressure” and demand a radical change in Iran’s behavior.
Things changed in September 2020, when during the US presidential campaign, the Democratic candidate Joe Biden wrote an op-ed on the CNN website announcing that his administration would return to the JCPOA and lift the sanctions.
Russian representative in Vienna talks, Mikhail Ulyanov holding a meeting with Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri-Kani. January 23, 2022
Tehran has consistently refused to negotiate directly with Washington as multilateral talks began in Vienna in April 2021 to restore the nuclear deal.
Already, in the last months of 2020, reports began to emerge that Iran’s illicit oil exports to China had increased. Beijing might have concluded that Biden was less likely to penalize third parties for quietly violating US sanctions.
This was followed by more reports on rising Iranian crude exports in 2021. At the start of 2022, it was safe to say that Tehran was selling just under a million barrels of oil, most of it to China but probably also to others like India.
Bazargan argues that Iranian leaders may have sunk deeper into miscalculation at the start of the invasion of Ukraine and they assumed that with an impending energy shortage they could extract more concessions from Washington — and if not, they might sell enough oil at high prices to survive, given Biden’s reluctance to enforce Trump’s sanctions.
The talks in Vienna were supposed to be close to a conclusion in early March when the diplomatic process came to an abrupt halt two weeks after the invasion of Ukraine. Statements from various sources, including Iranian officials, showed that a major obstacle to the talks was Iran’s demand that its Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) be removed from the US list of terrorist organizations. Subsequently, members of the US Congress began to voice serious objections and accuse the administration of being willing to make too many concessions to Iran. The White House has reportedly decided not to accept Iran’s request and nuclear talks remain deadlocked.
However, the administration continues insists that negotiations are the best way to force Iran to reduce its nuclear program, but referred to stricter enforcement of sanctions if the current standoff continues.
The Iran Diplomacy article indicates that the application of the sanctions has already begun and quotes the seizure of Iranian oil from a stranded tanker near the Greek coast this week.