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Tim Daiss

I'm an oil markets analyst, journalist and author that has been working out of the Asia-Pacific region for 12 years. I’ve covered oil, energy markets…

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Iran Files Complaint Against U.S. For “Unlawful” Sanctions

Strait of Hormuz

On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter that Iran had filed a complaint against the U.S. with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to "hold [the] US accountable for its unlawful re-imposition of unilateral sanctions.”

"Iran is committed to the rule of law in the face of US contempt for diplomacy & legal obligations. It's imperative to counter its habit of violating int'l law," his tweet read. Zarif didn’t provide more details, but Iranian officials have repeatedly claimed that renewed U.S. sanctions against the country are illegal.

President Trump made the controversial move in May to withdraw the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), usually referred to as the Iran nuclear accord.

One of Trump’s campaign pledges during the 2016 presidential election was to pull out of the accord, which he blasted as being one of the worst deals the country has ever made. The deal for Iran to scale back its nuclear enrichment program was spearheaded and reached under President Obama’s administration in 2015, and included the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and the EU.

Not only will the U.S. renew sanctions against Iran, but Washington claiming it will up the ante even more. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in May that sanctions were “just the beginning. The sting of sanctions will be painful… These will be the strongest sanctions in history when complete."

Seeking allies

Soon after Trump’s announcement at the time, Iran sought help from all quarters, but with scant success. Moreover, it also found little respite with OPEC due to long standing geopolitical tensions with OPEC defacto leader Saudi Arabia. Iran and Saudi Arabia have taken opposing sides in Syria as well as conflict in Yemen. Related: World’s Biggest Oil Trader Launches Renewables Fund

Iran’s EU moves, however, initially gained traction but ultimately fell apart since EU members have waffled under threat of also being shut of the US financial system. Since the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency, the US still carries tremendous power by both sanctions and even the threat of sanctions.

Iran has long downplayed Trump's remarks that renewed US sanctions would zero Iran's oil exports, saying such bombastic rhetoric presents a dream which may never come true. "Mr. Trump has talked a lot and has many wishes but certainly, this claim and attempt to stop and zero exports of Iran's oil is bombastic and impossible," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters in Tehran on Monday.

At the end of the day, it appears that Tehran may be right. Amid ongoing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, China looks like it will increase its procurement of Iranian oil to offset the impact of U.S. sanctions and to also push back against U.S. tariffs against Chinese imports.

Iran claims it rebuffed Trump

Two days after Iran said that it started ICJ proceedings against the U.S., a high-ranking Iranian official said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had rebuffed eight requests from Trump to meet at the United Nations in New York last September, after Trump made a critical speech against Tehran at the UN General Assembly. Related: Is The U.S. Overly Dependent On Russian Oil?

"During the previous round of his visit to New York for the UN General Assembly (conference), Trump extended 8 requests to the Iranian team for talks and meeting with President Rouhani," Iranian President's Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi told reporters after a cabinet meeting in Tehran.

Iran is OPEC’s third largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia and Iraq, producing around 3.8 million barrels of oil per month, according to some estimates. Re-imposed sanctions could remove as much as 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil from global markets, even up to 1 million bpd, depending on whose forecast you use.

The clock for renewed sanctions against Iran started ticking on May 8 when Trump signed the executive order. The presidential memo kicked off a 180-day countdown timer for the White House to re-impose all of the sanctions on Iran that were relaxed under the Obama-era deal.

By Tim Daiss for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh G Salameh on July 19 2018 said:
    When President Trump walked away from the 2015 nuclear Iran deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) into which the United States had entered with Iran and the other four permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1), he neither suggested any amendments to the nuclear deal nor any justifications for how Iran was violating the nuclear accord. In fact, the IAEA confirmed on May 9 that Iran is in compliance with its nuclear commitments. If so, then why did President Trump kill the deal when the alternative could well be a war with Iran?

    I would venture to suggest that the decision by President Trump has the hallmark of having been made in Tel Aviv like the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

    President Trump tried later to justify his decision by saying that Iran was developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and is involved in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. But these issues were never part of the domain of the nuclear agreement.

    He could have asked Iran to negotiate an extension to the nuclear agreement or a separate agreement covering Iran’s missile development and its activities in Syria and elsewhere rather than walking away from the nuclear agreement to which former President Obama has added his name on behalf of the United States. May be the fact that President Obama has added his name to the agreement was enough for President Trump to walk away from it.

    In view of the above, Iran is within its right to file a complaint against the U.S. with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to "hold it accountable for its unlawful re-imposition of unilateral sanctions.” Iran believes it is imperative to counter the US habit of violating international law.

    The US sanctions against Iran are doomed to fail because the overwhelming nations of the world including the major buyers of Iranian crude such as China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey are against them and also because China, Russia and the petro-yuan will ensure that they fail.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Lee James on July 20 2018 said:
    I understand U.S. sanctions as signaling out Iran as an impediment to peace in the Middle East. I think it has little to do with nuclear armaments; it's a larger picture.

    I further note that petro-state Russia is a key backer and promoter of unsavory types; namely, Assad and Khameinie. Now, if only the U.S. can keep its nose clean after our own adventurism in the Mid-East.

    Each side to the impasse has its issues. Both sides need to pull back. The sanctions are probably intended to further reduced military presence in other people's countries.

    Oil complicates the peace equation because everyone wants it and oil sales are instrumental in funding bullets and bodies. I think it would help if everyone called crude black and recognized the resource war aspect of what goes on in the Mid-East.

    I feel comfortable in recommending that the world transition away from oil dependence. The only real question is how quickly to do it.

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