TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- International energy news providers confirm that Iran is still selling its oil despite U.S. sanctions as a desperate American president calls on the world to watch the Islamic Republic.
Since September, the United States has been working to bring Iran’s oil exports down to zero as part of Washington’s "maximum pressure” on Tehran.
But Iran’s Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri asserted on Monday that the policy has failed because the Islamic Republic continues to send its oil to the market.
"Despite America’s pressure and its imposed sanctions on our oil exports, we still continue to sell our oil by using other means when even friendly countries have stopped purchasing our crude fearing America’s penalties,” Jahangiri was quoted as saying.
Iran’s oil industry, including its oil, gas and petrochemical sectors, is on the frontline of the fight against the U.S. which believes choking off the main source of income of the Iranians would force the country to negotiate a new nuclear deal.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed on Monday that the sanctions on Tehran had been effective, resulting in a decrease in Iran’s wealth and diminished ability to trade with the rest of the world.
"The good news is, in spite of what the world told President Trump - that American sanctions would not work - the world was wrong. The sanctions have been incredibly effective,” Pompeo said.
There is little ground, however, to believe in the top U.S. diplomat’s celebratory words.
Tehran has rejected talks with the United States unless it returns to the nuclear deal and lifts all sanctions. There is not the slightest sign of a change in this position, especially after Leader of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei renewed last month a ban on negotiation with the United States.
Pompeo is apparently encouraged by the recent protests in Iran against the government’s decision to hike gasoline prices. If so, U.S. leaders must have been reading too much into the unrest which provided a catalyst to the overall thinking of the Iranians - they loathe and renounce chaos and internal conflict.
That must explain the quick fizzling of the agitation after peaceful protesters separated their ranks from the rioters who were targeting public and private property without discretion.
And that is why the recent protests in Iran must be bad news for American leaders who have thought increased pressure on Iranian would drive them into revolt and mutiny against the government.
Obviously frustrated, President Donald Trump said Tuesday the world has to be watching Iran’s alleged effort to quash protests that he claimed have killed "thousands of people.”
Speaking in London, where he is attending the NATO leaders summit, Trump said, "Iran is killing thousands and thousands of people right now as we speak.”
He added they were killed "for the mere fact that they’re protesting,” and he called it a "terrible thing”.
Trump was mum on what, if anything, the U.S. could do in response, but he said, "I think the world has to be watching.”
Trump encouraged rioters "to get in there and see what’s going on,” echoing his Secretary of State Pompeo who earlier called on protesters to send videos of their attacks on public and private property.
On Monday, Vice President Jahangiri said the Americans were on the wrong footing. "They have failed to bring our oil exports to zero as planned,” he said.
Digital marine vessel tracking agency Tankertrackers.com agreed, saying Iran’s claims that it is managing to sell significant levels of crude are not without foundation.
According to Berlin-based business publication bne IntelliNews, Iran has very much moved its oil sales into the grey market to avoid US sanctions, meaning analysts partly rely on satellite-technology tracking firms to observe the ebb and flow of tankers leaving Iran’s ports and watch their movements.
"Lately, Iran’s two main destinations for its crude oil have been China and Syria. In addition to that, refined products ‘bounce’ via certain trading hubs as they cannot be chemically traced,” Samir Madani, CEO of Tankertrackers.com, told the publication.
"All in all, crude plus products are being shipped at a rate of around 700,000 barrels per day,” he said.