(Photo credit: AP)
Iran’s oil exports have reached its highest level since the Trump administration exited a 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran in 2018, the country’s Oil Minister Javad Owji said on 12 March.
According to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, Iran exported 83 million more oil barrels in the past 12-month period compared to the 12-month period before it.
Iran has therefore exported 190 million more barrels than two years prior, while gas exports increased by 15 percent over the past 12 months.
In 2018, the Trump administration kicked off what it called a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. The US withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposed a series of economic sanctions attempting to squeeze Iranian oil exports and curtail the country’s access to the international financial system, Foreign Affairs reported at the time. This led some Western analysts to predict the sanctions would send Iran’s economy into a “death spiral.”
Iran’s crude exports fell to as little as 100,000 bpd in 2020, from over 2.5 million bpd in 2018, according to tanker trackers.
However, Tehran has been able to evade the US-imposed sanctions, in part through oil sales to China, Iran’s biggest customer, and increase its exports. To evade sanctions, most of Iran’s crude exports to China are rebranded as crude from other countries. This is done by forging documents to hide the origin of Iranian oil cargo.
Despite Iran’s success in evading sanctions, the US government is nevertheless committed to preventing Iranian oil exports moving forward. On 9 March, the US announced more sanctions and placed penalties on 39 firms linked to a “shadow banking system” that helped to facilitate oil transactions between Iranian firms and their foreign buyers, the Times of Israel reported. Firms in China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were among those targeted.
“Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ commitment to enforcing our sanctions and our ability to disrupt Iran’s foreign financial networks, which it uses to launder funds,” Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo said last Thursday.