Tag Archives: Iran Sanctions

Trump Looks Set to Lock Horns With Europe Over Iran Nuclear Deal, by Middle East Monitor

The Europeans are looking like they might challenge US domination, breaking with the US over sanctions on Iran. From Middle East Monitor at theantimedia.com:

The Trump administration is apparently exasperated at the European Union’s bid to bypass US sanctions on Iran. Infuriated by the EU’s effort to save the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA) agreed in 2015 when Barack Obama was in the White House, Washington has threatened to punish any efforts seeking to circumvent the sanctions.

The US government is said to be putting the Europeans on notice, saying that if they try to bypass the sanctions on Iran, they will be subject to stiff fines and penalties. A senior Trump administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity about EU efforts to set up an alternative payment method to allow trade with the Iranians told the Associated Press that the US “will fully enforce its sanctions and hold individuals and entities accountable for undermining them.”

European leaders, however, are unfazed by the threats and are said to be marching forward with the plan, which, if implemented, could further strain trans-Atlantic relations. AP reported that a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that preparations for the alternative system are “at an advanced stage.”

The EU is working on an initiative that will enable payments from companies that want to trade with Iran and offer protection from US penalties. According to Bloomberg, the proposal could be presented as early as today. EU government envoys are said to be discussing the “three nation initiative” in Brussels and looking into the “positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran.” A statement is expected soon.

 

Iraq Rejects Iran Sanctions and US Troop Presence, by Jim Carey

It looks like another defeat for the US’s long-running, hapless interventions in the Middle East. From Jim Carey at theantimedia.org:

n another blow to US control on Iraq, the country’s foreign minister warned that Baghdad would ignore US sanctions on Iran.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim laid out the latest step on the path to independence for Baghdad from the US concerning sanctions on Iran by Washington. Although Iraq currently has a 90-day waiver to trade with Iran issued on December 20th, Hakim let reporters know Iraq would be pursuing their own policy on Iran should the waiver not be renewed.

Hakim explained to reporters that “These sanctions, the siege, or what is called the embargo,” imposed by the US is “unilateral, not international,” and Iraq is “not obliged [to follow] them.”

This is a big step for Baghdad to take in the face of pressure from Washington for Iraq to become “energy independent” with the help of US corporations exploiting their oil and gas resources. Instead, as explained by Hakim, Iraq would rather choose their own options for energy, even if that includes continuing the annual $12 billion in trade between Iraq and Iran flowing over US objections.

There are also discussions ongoing concerning increasing the amount of trade between Baghdad and Tehran despite US pressure. Iraqi President Barham Salih and his Iranian President Hassan Rouhani even doubled down on this during a recent meeting where Rouhani said that Tehran was willing to increase trade with Baghdad from the $12 billion a year mark to $20 billion.

Hakim assured reporters Iraq is already thinking of “solutions” to counteract any US threats to increased trade with Iran. According to Hakim, there are multiple options open to Baghdad “including dealing in Iraqi dinars in bilateral trade” as opposed to US dollars.

Iraqi Sovereignty: From Sanctions to Bases

This defiance to US sanctions is only the latest step in Iraq declaring independence from Washington. Another sign that the US is losing their grip on Baghdad was also made apparent last week when, after Trump made a surprise visit to US troops in Iraq, fueling outrage among Iraqi politicians.

Many Iraqi leaders called Trump’s surprise visit to their country a violation of their nation’s sovereignty. This has ended up leading to a wider backlash and resulted in multiple Iraqi politicians demanding a complete end to the US military presence in the country.

This all comes as the Trump regime is attempting to cement new positions in the Middle East by way of new bases on the Iraq-Syria border. According to some Iraqi MPs such as Badr al-Zaidi who has said that the new bases violate “agreements between Iraq and the US were on the pullout of foreign forces from Iraq after 2013.”

Even US-ally and supporter of the NATO occupation, former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi rejected the “method of Trump’s visit,” saying “it was not appropriate to diplomatic mores and to relations with sovereign states.”

These insults to Iraq have led to a wave of Iraqi lawmakers demanding more than an apology and saying the Iraqi government would move to make a “parliamentary decision to expel (Trump’s) military forces” in the words of Qais Khazali, an Iraqi politician. Much like with the rejection of the Iran sanctions, Khazali also promised his faction of the government (backed by Shia militias) also had creative “solutions” to dealing with US pressure on Iraq including “experience and ability to get them out in another way that is well known to your forces, which were forced to withdraw in humiliation in 2011.”

All of these events paint a picture of a growing movement in Iraq to reject US control of the government there that has been in place since the fall of the government of Saddam Hussein in 2003. All the parties that opposed both Saddam and the US occupation are moving closer to the levers of power in Iraq and Baghdad is no longer under Washington’s thumb. The question now for Donald Trump is, will he leave Iraq like he is Syria or will this case take more convincing by the forces of resistance in Iraq?

 

Trump Bullying Will Hurt Millions of Iranians, by Medea Benjamin

The odds of Iranian sanctions leading to the hoped-for overthrow of the Iranian government are low. However, they will hurt millions of Iranians. From Medea Benjamin at antiwar.com:

Treating the welfare of the Iranians people like a TV show, Donald Trump used a meme from The Game of Thrones – an arrogant, stylized photo of himself with the tagline: “Sanctions Are Coming November 5” – to announce the new round of crippling sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports, banks and shipping.

Iranian government officials want to know how the Trump administration can get away with punishing Iran and other countries for complying with the internationally recognized nuclear deal signed in 2015. “The US is, in effect, threatening states who seek to abide by Resolution 2231 with punitive measures,” said President Rouhani. “This constitutes a mockery of international decisions and the blackmailing of responsible parties who seek to uphold them.”

Treating the welfare of the Iranians people like a TV show, Donald Trump used a meme from The Game of Thrones – an arrogant, stylized photo of himself with the tagline: “Sanctions Are Coming November 5” – to announce the new round of crippling sanctions targeting Iran’s oil exports, banks and shipping.

This is the second round of sanctions since Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, a deal that was signed in 2015 not only by the US and Iran, but also by Germany, England, France, Russia and China – and approved unanimously by the UN Security Council. It’s also a deal that has been working. Iran has been complying with the most intrusive inspections regime ever devised, as the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed 13 times.

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Chaos Reigns in Trump Administration over Iranian Sanctions, by Thomas Luongo

Iran’s position is stronger than it was in 2012 when Obama imposed sanctions. From Tom Luongo at strategic-culture.org:

Sanctions may indeed be coming but will they have the bite that Donald Trump is hoping for? It’s a good question as we open November with a flurry of edicts from Trump’s State and Treasury Departments.

Let’s go over them all and see just how contradictory they are while at the same time acceding to the reality of just how much the world has changed in the six years since President Obama first went nuclear on Iran with sanctions.

It starts with Trump’s tweet that “Sanctions are Coming.” Okay, fine we knew this. But sanctions don’t account for much if the State Department is handing out 180 day waivers to countries.

Next up was Pompeo saying on the same day that no less than eight countries would be exempt from sanctions for buying oil from Iran.

A little news for Mike Pompeo, Halloween was last week.

Contrast this with 2012 where India, for example, to get around the sanctions had to essentially barter to get much needed Iranian oil, because no such exemption was forthcoming.

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European Firms Hit Hard By U.S. Sanctions On Iran, by Scott Belinksi

If sanctions against Iran jolt oil prices higher, Europe will suffer. From Scott Belinski at oilprice.com:

As Iran is turning to the UN’s International Court of Justice to have the US-imposed sanctions against its oil suspended, the EU is preparing for the hit its economies will have to absorb once the full weight of Washington’s punitive measures comes into effect in the fourth quarter of this year. With these latest moves, American intentions are clear: cut off Iranian oil from the market entirely and reduce Tehran’s financial power. As oil prices rise, however, the White House’s policy looks set to hurt more countries than just Iran. Will Europe’s economies take the hit – or will they fight back?

Iran is the world’s third largest oil producer within OPEC (after Saudi Arabia and Iraq) with a daily production of 4 million barrels. Currently, major economic regions from North America to Europe and East Asia are witnessing growing economic activity, causing global oil consumption in 2017 to rise by 1.5 million barrels per day, further tightening the market. As Tehran has already warned, OPEC capacity will be unable to meet shortfalls if the US pursues its policy of reducing Iranian oil exports to zero.

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Why Trump’s Iran Isolation Plan May Backfire, by Ron Paul

Here is another take on Iran’s situation. From Ron Paul at ronpaulinstitute.org:

In May, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal despite Iran living up to its obligations and the deal working as planned. While the US kept in place most sanctions against Tehran, China and Russia – along with many European countries – had begun reaping the benefits of trade with an Iran eager to do business with the world.

Now, President Trump is threatening sanctions against any country that continues to do business with Iran. But will his attempt to restore the status quo before the Iran deal really work?

Even if the Europeans cave in to US demands, the world has changed a great deal since the pre-Iran deal era.

President Trump is finding that his threats and heated rhetoric do not always have the effect he wishes. As his Administration warns countries to stop buying Iranian oil by November or risk punishment by the United States, a nervous international oil market is pushing prices ever higher, threatening the economic prosperity he claims credit for. President Trump’s response has been to demand that OPEC boost its oil production by two million barrels per day to calm markets and bring prices down.

Perhaps no one told him that Iran was a founding member of OPEC?

When President Trump Tweeted last week that Saudi Arabia agreed to begin pumping additional oil to make up for the removal of Iran from the international markets, the Saudis very quickly corrected him, saying that while they could increase capacity if needed, no promise to do so had been made.

The truth is, if the rest of the world followed Trump’s demands and returned to sanctions and boycotting Iranian oil, some 2.7 million barrels per day currently supplied by Iran would be very difficult to make up elsewhere. Venezuela, which has enormous reserves but is also suffering under, among other problems, crippling US sanctions, is shrinking out of the world oil market.

Iraq has not recovered its oil production capacity since its “liberation” by the US in 2003 and the al-Qaeda and ISIS insurgencies that followed it.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that “a complete shutdown of Iranian sales could push oil prices above $120 a barrel if Saudi Arabia can’t keep up.” Would that crash the US economy? Perhaps. Is Trump willing to risk it?

To continue reading: Why Trump’s Iran Isolation Plan May Backfire

How Bad Is Iran’s Oil Situation? by Nick Cunningham

Trump may be able to meaningfully curtail Iran’s oil exports. From Nick Cunningham at oilprice.com via wolfstreet.com:

“There’s a really big gap between what foreign governments are saying and what companies are saying.”

The U.S. government has continued its attempts to shut down Iran’s oil exports, and in recent days Iranian officials responded by threatening to block the Strait of Hormuz. Such an outcome is highly unlikely, but the war of words demonstrates how quickly the confrontation is escalating.

Oil prices spiked in late June when a U.S. State Department official said that countries would be expected to cut their imports of oil from Iran down to “zero.” The official also suggested that it would be unlikely that the Trump administration would grant any waivers.

This hard line stance fueled a rally in oil prices as the oil market was quickly forced to recalibrate expected losses from Iran, with a general consensus changing from a loss of around 500,000 bpd by the end of the year, to something more like 1 million barrels per day (mb/d), or even as high as 2.0 to 2.5 mb/d in a worst-case scenario in which all countries comply.

A loss of that magnitude would be hard to offset, even if Saudi Arabia decides to burn through all of its spare capacity.

That led to a dialing back of the rhetoric from the Trump administration, or so it seemed. A follow-up statement from the State Department suggested that the U.S. government would work with countries on a “case-by-case basis” to lower Iranian oil imports. High oil prices seemed to put pressure on Washington.

But for now, there is no policy shift. “I think there’s going to be very few waivers. That’s what we’re hearing all the time from officials across the administration. I think it’s a very strong policy decision,” Brenda Shaffer, an adjunct professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, told Oilprice.com.

Time will tell, but early evidence suggests that the Trump administration is having success convincing top buyers of Iranian crude to curtail their purchases.

South Korea reportedly plans on zeroing out its imports of oil from Iran in August, according to Reuters. Sources told Reuters that Japan plans on buying oil from Iran for the next few months, but will likely come under pressure to cut imports as the November deadline approaches.

To continue reading: How Bad Is Iran’s Oil Situation?