The United States and Iran may be nearing a deal that could see sanctions on Iran lifted, based on reports about the U.S. Secretary of State doing a Gulf round to calm down U.S. allies there about the deal.
Per the Associated Press, Anthony Blinken visited Israel and the Gulf states this weekend in a bid to quench fears of an imminent Iran deal.
"When it comes to the most important element, we see eye-to-eye," Blinken said during a news conference with his Israeli counterpart. "We are both committed, both determined that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon."
According to the U.S. Secretary of State, the best way to ensure that Iran will not become a nuclear power is to seal a deal with Tehran.
"Our commitment to the core principle of Iran never acquiring a nuclear weapon is unwavering," the top U.S. official said.
Even so, the deal is far from certain yet as sticking points remain, such as the U.S. designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group. Iran wants this removed, while Israel fiercely opposes such a move.
In fact, also this weekend, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, said that he was not confident a deal was about to be sealed, Reuters reported on Sunday.
"I can't be confident it is imminent... A few months ago we thought we were pretty close as well," Malley said at the Doha Forum. "In any negotiations, when there's issues that remain open for so long, it tells you something about how hard it is to bridge the gap."
On the other hand, a senior Iranian source told the media that a deal was, in fact, imminent.
"Yes, it's imminent. It depends on the political will of the United States," Kamal Kharrazi, senior adviser to Iran's supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said at the Doha Forum.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Cases in point are the visit by US officials to Venezuela dangling a lifting of sanctions for Venezuela’s crude and the US making one concession after another to reach a nuclear deal with Iran for the sake of a return of Iranian crude to the market.
So what is the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken going to reassure the Arab Gulf countries about? Is he going to tell them that the only deal Iran is prepared to accept is one on its own terms meaning a full lifting of sanctions against it, no new restrictions on its nuclear and ballistic missile development programmes and a lifting of the U.S. designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.
Does the US Secretary of State Expect Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States to open the oil taps for him? I don't think so. For that he might have to wait much longer.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London