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With its legal oil export avenues cut off by the end of all U.S. sanction waivers for its crude oil buyers, Iran has recently resumed illicit shipping of oil to Syria, CNBC reported on Thursday, citing data from tanker tracking firms.
TankerTrackers for example said today that “We spotted the first delivery of Iranian crude oil into Syria since January 1st of this year. A million barrels arrived on May 5th.”
Both TankerTrackers and ClipperData have spotted a delivery of around 1 million barrels of crude oil from Iran into the Syrian port of Baniyas, home to Syria’s biggest refinery, in the first week of May. The tanker they had been tracking had at one point switched off its transponder—a tactic that analysts believe Iran will start using more often to ship and sell its oil ‘under the radar’.
The maximum pressure campaign of the United States against Iran led the Trump Administration to end all sanction waivers for Iranian oil buyers in its attempt to drive Iranian oil exports to zero.
Iran, for its part, is accusing the U.S. and its allies of using oil as a political tool and has repeatedly said that American sanctions can’t and won’t bring Iranian oil exports to zero.
Analysts think that Iran’s largest oil buyer China may not completely stop its purchases of Iranian crude oil as Beijing has said that it wouldn’t comply with U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran. Experts also believe that Iran will be re-opening and using more of its illicit oil channels to keep oil trade and continue getting some revenues from its most precious export commodity.
On Wednesday, Iran said that it was suspending some of its commitments under the nuclear deal and threatened to resume enriching uranium to a higher level if the remaining signatories to the deal—the EU, Russia, and China—don’t fulfill within 60 days their commitments to Iran, including protecting Iranian oil trade from U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. responded to the flare-up in tensions with Iran with Iran’s Special Envoy Brian Hook vowing that any attack against the United States or its allies would be met with a show of force.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.