Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi said on Tuesday that his country was no longer supplying any oil to Greece, which is observing an EU embargo on Iranian oil to be fully implemented in July.
“Right now, Iran is not selling any more oil to Greece,” Ghasemi was quoted as saying on the oil ministry’s official website, Shana.
He added that “Iran is not having any problem selling its oil and oil products” in other markets.
Greece and other EU nations have been cutting back on Iranian oil imports as part of the EU embargo announced in January.
Greece was previously heavily dependent on Iranian oil, buying 100,000 barrels per day on favorable credit conditions that its cash-strapped economy was finding difficult to obtain elsewhere. [++]
It should be remembered that Natanz, the enrichment facility directed by the murdered Professor Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan and which was the target of international industrial sabotage via the Stuxnet virus, is under full IAEA safeguards and 24-hour surveillance, and has been subject to numerous surprise inspections. For nearly a decade, the IAEA has consistently confirmed that no nuclear material at Natanz (and elsewhere in Iran, for that matter) has ever been diverted to non-peaceful purposes. - Nima Shirazi
In his statement [on Tuesday], Obama declares, “The United States will continue to impose new sanctions to increase the pressure on Iran.”
How does such a brazen promise comport with his March 20, 2009 Nowruz announcement, cynically titled “A New Year, A New Beginning,” that his “administration is now committed to diplomacy” which “will not be advanced by threats”? Oh right, that claim was made a mere nine days after he extended unilateral sanctions on Iran due to Iran supposedly posing what he called “a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
Considering the constant fear-mongering about Iran, it is no surprise that, according to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, nearly 30% of the American public now believes Iran “represents the greatest danger to the United States,” a jump from 12% a year ago.
Among those who are aware of the recent tensions between the U.S. and Iran over Iran’s nuclear program and disputes in the Persian Gulf, a majority say that it is more important to take a firm stand against Iranian actions (54%) than to avoid a military conflict with Iran (39%). More than seven-in-ten Republicans (72%) say taking a firm stand is more important, as do a smaller majority (52%) of independents.
Democrats are more evenly split: 45% say taking a firm stand, 47% say avoiding a military conflict. This reflects a division of opinion within Democrats; while 52% of conservative and moderate Democrats say taking a firm stand is more important, that falls to 36% among liberal Democrats.
Although a European boycott of Iranian oil will increase the cost of doing business for Iran, will hurt the Iranian public, and is already harming the value of the Iranian currency, it is highly unlikely to cut Iran off from exporting to the world market or to put so much pressure on the government that it will change its policies.
In order for Iran to find it impossible to sell its petroleum, world supply would have to exceed world demand by roughly 2.5 million barrels a day. That outcome could be produced either by a fall in world demand (typically as a result of a further economic turn-down) or by an increase in world supply (which would require that all current producers continue to export at at least the same rate, and that some of them export much more than they are currently doing).
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries expects world demand for petroleum actually to increase in 2012 by about 1 million barrels a day, up to 89 million b/d over-all. There is probably slightly more demand than supply in the world market, with China and other Asian countries still growing strongly, and the number of cars and trucks driven in Asia increasing rapidly. If Iran’s 2.5 million barrels a day really could be taken off the world market, that would be a total shortfall of 3.5 million barrels a day (if one counts the expected increase in demand), which would cause petroleum prices to skyrocket.
Europe seems to hope that Saudi Arabia will pump an extra 2.5 million barrels a day to keep prices stable if everyone stops buying Iran’s petroleum. But since demand will likely increase this year, Saudi Arabia would have to pump 3.5 million barrels a day to meet the total shortfall. That kind of increased production on a sustained basis is probably beyond Saudi technical capacities, and much of that extra production will likely be “sour” (full of sulfur and other impurities and expensive to refine). Saudi Arabia already is pumping nearly 10 million barrels a day, which is unusually high. That it could do 13.5 million barrels a day is frankly fantastic.
Moreover, there is a lot of evidence that Saudi Arabia does not want to cause prices to fall below $100 a barrel for a while. The kingdom forestalled Arab Spring style protests by much increasing its welfare spending, essentially bribing its population to remain quiet. But to pay for all that extra kindness to its population, it needs its petroleum to sell at historically high prices. If Riyadh increases its production, and Iran continues to find customers around the world for its own petroleum, then the price would fall, creating massive budget shortfalls in Saudi Arabia and making it impossible for the kingdom to follow through on its promises to its people. That course would be, to say the least, dangerous.
The European Union imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other top officials in his regime, and strengthened sanctions against Iran, Libya and Belarus during a meeting of foreign ministers Monday.
It is the first time the EU has sanctioned Assad, and the announcement (pdf) said nine others joined him on an expanded blacklist of Syria, with their names to be released Tuesday in the Official Journal.
This is good news - the US doesn’t really have any punishments left to lay on Syria. The European sanctions will add much-needed pressure.
The European Union agreed in principle on Friday to impose an arms embargo against Syria and prepare additional measures to punish the regime for a bloody crackdown against protests, a diplomat said.
The move comes after the United States earlier in the day imposed new sanctions on Syria over its brutal repression of mass protests, and again singled out Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which it said was aiding the crackdown.
The sanctions were unveiled as tens of thousands of protestors poured onto the streets across Syria following a call for a “day of rage” against the Syrian government after the weekly Muslim prayers.