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Iranian Economy Gets A Harder Hit by U.S., Trade Figures Shrink With Europe’s Biggest Economy

In other setbacks to Iran, its trade with Germany, Europe’s largest economy, slumped in the first two months of this year, according to the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

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oil tank
An employee walks past oil tanks at a Sinopec refinery in Wuhan, Hubei province April 25, 2012. China’s top state-owned refiners have decided not to order any oil for loading at Iranian ports this month, according to Reuters. Pixabay

U.S. sanctions are biting harder into the Iranian economy, with new signs that Iran’s key oil exports are faltering, while its trade figures with Europe’s biggest economy and with the United States are shrinking.

U.S. news service Bloomberg said it has compiled tanker tracking data showing that no oil tankers had been seen leaving Iran’s oil terminals for foreign ports in the first nine days of May. Crude oil is Iran’s main revenue source.

Washington tightened its unilateral sanctions on Iranian oil exports May 2, ending waivers that it granted to several countries to keep importing crude from Iran and requiring them to reduce imports to zero. The U.S. sanctions are aimed at pressuring Iran to change its perceived malign behaviors.

Bloomberg said the tracking data also revealed that four Iranian tankers were anchored off the coast of China as of May 9, with a fifth tanker on its way to the Chinese coast. It said most of the rest of Iran’s tanker fleet either was returning to the Persian Gulf after discharging cargoes or had been observed in or near the region in the previous two days. It said 10 Iranian tankers had not sent tracking signals for at least 16 days, keeping their transponders turned off in an apparent effort to hide their movements.

In a report published Friday, Reuters said the four Iranian tankers off the Chinese coast and the fifth on its way to China had loaded Iranian crude in April, before China’s U.S. waiver to import the oil expired. It said two of the tankers have discharged their oil to Chinese clients, while two others were waiting to do so at the Chinese ports of Ningbo and Zhoushan.

But in a further blow to Iran’s oil industry, Reuters quoted “three people with knowledge of the matter” as saying China’s top state-owned refiners China Petrochemical Corp (Sinopec) and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) have decided not to order any oil for loading at Iranian ports this month. Reuters cited the sources as saying the Chinese refiners were worried that making such orders would expose them to U.S. sanctions that could block their access to the U.S. financial system.

Iran has vowed to keep exporting oil in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

Syria
There was no immediate reaction by the Trump administration to the undeclared Iranian oil delivery to Syria. Pixabay

In recent days, Western media said it appears that Tehran did find one oil customer this month, with an Iranian tanker delivering crude to Syria for the first time this year. Iran had stopped oil shipments to Syria, a key regional ally, late last year after suspending a credit line to Damascus because of impending U.S. sanctions against Tehran. The halt in Iranian oil deliveries to Syria, which also is under U.S. sanctions, led to fuel shortages during the Syrian winter.

Reuters cited a source familiar with Iranian oil shipments as saying the Iranian tanker arrived in Syria last week. U.S. network CNBC quoted firms that track maritime shipments as saying Iran made the delivery in the first week of May.

In a tweet posted Friday, TankerTrackers.com co-founder Samir Madani said the Iranian oil arrived May 5 aboard a Suezmax tanker previously known as True Ocean. Suezmax is a naval term for the largest ship capable of transiting the Suez Canal.

There was no immediate reaction by the Trump administration to the undeclared Iranian oil delivery to Syria.

In other setbacks to Iran, its trade with Germany, Europe’s largest economy, slumped in the first two months of this year, according to the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

In Friday reports, newspapers belonging to Germany’s Funke Media Group cited the association as saying German exports to Iran fell 52.6% year-on-year to $261 million in January and February, while German imports from Iran dropped 42.2% to $46 million in the same period.

The Funke newspapers quoted the head of the German-Iranian chamber of commerce, Dagmar von Bohnstein, as saying: “The market in Iran is extremely difficult because of the U.S. sanctions and the country’s economic conditions.” Iran has seen more than a year of small-scale nationwide protests by workers angry at what they see as corruption and mismanagement by its ruling Islamist clerics.

The U.S. Census Bureau also posted trade data Thursday, showing U.S. exports to Iran fell 54.7% in the first quarter of 2019 versus the same period last year, to $14.6 million. It said U.S. first-quarter imports from Iran dropped to just half-a-million dollars, compared to $13.3 million in the year-earlier period.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook speaks to VOA Persian at the State Department in Washington, May 9, 2019.
U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook speaks to VOA Persian at the State Department in Washington, May 9, 2019. VOA

In a Thursday interview with VOA Persian at the State Department, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said Iran’s economic troubles will get worse.

Also Read: WHO Warns: DRC’s Ebola Outbreak Situation Could Spiral Out Of Control

“That is the price this regime is going to pay for behaving like an outlaw regime,” Hook said. “We are denying Iran the ability to fund its proxies. So we are very happy with this steady state of pressure that we hope to keep in place for as long as is necessary.” (VOA)

Next Story

“Voluntary Commitments” To The Six-Nation Nuclear Deal: Iran

Despite the havoc on the Iranian economy, U.N. officials have certified Tehran's compliance with the nuclear deal.

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Iran
In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a ceremony commemorating "National Day of Nuclear Technology," in Tehran, Iran, April 9, 2019. VOA

Iran is giving up some “voluntary commitments” to the six-nation nuclear deal, but is not pulling out of the deal, Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif says.

Iranian state media quote Zarif as saying Iran is making the move because “the European Union and others … did not have the power to resist U.S. pressure.”

Zarif did not specify what he means.

But a newspaper tied to the hardline Revolutionary Guard says Wednesday’s announcement would “ignite the matchstick for burning the deal.”

U.S.
The U.S. announced last week it would no longer waive sanctions against countries that buy Iranian oil — another blow to Iran. VOA

President Hassan Rouhani will send letters to Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia outlining exactly which parts of the deal he is abandoning.

Breaches Nuclear Deal, French Official Says

He also plans to make a speech Wednesday.

His remarks will come exactly one year after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement, calling it one of the worst deals ever put together.

A French official cautions Iran against making any moves that would compel Europe and others to reimpose sanctions.

“Depending on what is in the statement from Tehran, at this stage what we’re expecting is a collective European reaction. But as we do not yet know exactly what will be in it, we are preparing for different eventualities,” the official said Tuesday.

The U.S. reimposed sanctions on Iran when Trump tore up the deal. The sanctions have had a devastating effect on what was already a weak Iranian economy. The sanctions relief from the five other signatories has brought little help.

U.S.
Iranian state media quote Zarif as saying Iran is making the move because “the European Union and others … did not have the power to resist U.S. pressure.” VOA

Also Read: NATO Remarks on Turkey’s Plans To Purchase Russian Air-Defense Missile Systems

Despite the havoc on the Iranian economy, U.N. officials have certified Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear deal.

But Iranian newspapers have reported the country could revive some of the nuclear activities it halted under the agreement. (VOA)