Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi told reporters in Tehran today that Iran will soon stop crude oil exports to “some countries” in the wake of the EU’s decision to ban oil imports from Iran. Qasemi’s announcement came hours after the Iranian parliament delayed action to cut oil deliveries to EU that were to begin on Sunday.
On 23 January, the EU foreign ministers agreed to ban oil imports from Iran and imposed sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran and froze its assets across the EU. They also gave their member state a grace period until 1 July to honor the existing oil contracts with Iran. But in a retaliatory move, the Iranian legislatures announced they would use the “double emergency” track available to them to introduce a bill to Majlis on Sunday and later vote on it to ban all oil exports to EU immediately. Then the Majlis delayed action on that move, without any explanations. But now the oil minister is saying that Iran would stop oil exports to some countries, without identifying them.
The events surrounding the sanctions are not only moving rapidly these days, but are confusing and full of intrigue and threats and counter-threats, most of them not taken seriously even with the people who have issued them. The threat to immediately ban exports to EU is just the latest, down to “some” countries for the time being. Last month, the country’s First VP said if the US and the EU went ahead with sanctions affecting oil exports, not “a drop of oil” would pass through the Strait of Hormuz. The US and the EU went ahead with the sanctions, and we still have a flow of oil through the Strait. Then the commander of the country’s military threatened the US not to send an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf. The US sent another carrier into the Gulf, passing through the Strait, with no incidents. So we need to be cautious on reporting and evaluating these types of threats.
The positive thing coming out of all this confusion has been that so far the cooler heads have prevailed, raising hopes that a negotiated settlement of the issues could be found. The IAEA’s current mission to Tehran ranks high on the list of such hopes.