With two weeks to go until U.S. sanctions officially take aim at Iran’s oil exports, it’s not at all clear how much crude Iran is still selling—or which countries will keep buying it—raising questions about the effectiveness of the main thrust of Washington’s pressure campaign against Tehran.
Since Washington announced a resumption of U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports this spring, after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, Iran has scrambled to salvage one of its main sources of revenue—with some apparent success. While the Trump administration says it hopes to drive Iran’s oil exports to zero, that hasn’t come close to happening yet.
It’s hard to get a clear picture of exactly how much the looming sanctions have impacted Iran’s exports. Most estimates—from the International Energy Agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and independent consultants—peg Iran’s current oil exports at 1.6 million to 1.7 million barrels a day, down from 2.5 million barrels a day before sanctions were announced. That would be a significant drop—close to the total impact on Iranian exports from Obama administration sanctions—and more than many observers initially expected.
But there’s plenty of confusion as to what’s really happening with Iran’s crude shipments. TankerTrackers, using satellite data to track physical shipments, suggested late last week that Iranian exports have dropped only a tiny bit, to about 2.2 million barrels per day. Those higher numbers seem to be backed up by reports of increasing amounts of Iranian oil heading to India and China, two of Tehran’s biggest customers.
Read the full article and more in Foreign Policy.