Iran in the News: Sanctions, Oil, Ahmadinejad in LebanonOctober 10, 2010
(Reuters) – Dutch authorities may take legal action against an exporter for violating EU sanctions on Iran by shipping equipment to the country on behalf of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the Economics Ministry said on Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Organisation (IAEA) had sent the equipment to a banned recipient, Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, as part of a technical cooperation agreement with the Islamic Republic, a ministry spokesman said.
The Iranian president is visiting Lebanon mainly because of his growing unpopularity at home. In fact, Ahmadinejad has never been more unpopular in Iran, not only with the public but also his conservative allies and the clergy. By going to Lebanon, he is going to one of the last places where the Islamic Republic still has genuine support. When he speaks in Bint Jbeil, unlike in Iran, schools won’t be closed and civil servants won’t be threatened with dismissal unless they attend the president’s speech. People will voluntarily turn up because they genuinely support the Islamic republic and will pay respect to almost any senior Iranian politician.
By going to Lebanon, Ahmadinejad will primarily be using the occasion to try to strengthen his support back home with the public, and with the Revolutionary Guards, whose support is important to him. He will also be trying to outshine his rivals such as Ali Larijani and Hashemi Rafsanjani by using the trip to say that he is the true face of Iran abroad, and not them.
This development will also benefit supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who is most probably very concerned about Ahmadinejad’s flagging popularity.
Squared off against Hizbullah are Prime Minister Saad Hariri and a handful of his political allies. They’ve vowed to push the tribunal as far as it needs to go to uncover the details of the assassination. The tribunal issue hits not only Lebanon’s political fault lines but its sectarian fault lines as well: Hizbullah supporters are primarily Shiite, and Hariri’s supporters are primarily Sunni. The two partisan groups clashed in fierce street battles in May 2008. Ahmadinejad’s government is thought to have donated millions of dollars to Hizbullah since 2005, something that has surely not gone unnoticed by Lebanon’s Sunni community.
(Reuters) – Iran’s assertion that it has side-stepped some international sanctions and become self-sufficient in gasoline is political propaganda, experts say, but it could become a reality as early as 2013.
Immediately after the U.S. announcement, a Total manager contacted the Iranian authorities to reassure them the French oil major had no intention to discontinue its business ties with the Islamic Republic, a person familiar with the matter told Dow Jones.
The Total manager told the Iranian authorities it “will take into account French national interests,” instead of U.S. interests, the person familiar with the matter said, paraphrasing the conversation with the company manager.
While U.S. sanctions have long barred oil investment in Iran, European countries like France have traditionally opposed sanctions. That enabled Total, Shell, Eni and Statoil to develop Iranian oil and gas fields and produce petroleum in Iran. This changed when the European Union this summer announced sanctions barring European companies to invest in the country’s hydrocarbons sector.
A person familiar with the contacts said that just before the U.S. disclosed Shell had renounced to new investments in Iran, a Shell representative also contacted Iran’s authorities to reassure them the company intended to maintain its business ties.
Source: Tehran Bureau
Large Asian and European companies involved in Iran’s oil and gas sector are showing signs that they are preparing to withdraw from Iranian projects to avoid being targeted by U.S. sanctions. As Stuart Levey, the U.S. Treasury Department’s point man on sanctions, explained in a presentation in Washington last month, the tendency of sanctioned Iranian entities to use deception to evade sanctions has provided U.S. authorities with an opportunity to also target legitimate Iranian transactions. “Because many in the private sector are simply unable to distinguish between Iran’s legitimate and illicit transactions, they have opted to cut off Iran entirely,” Levey said.
Japan’s Inpex Corporation is the latest company that is reportedly considering withdrawing from a major energy project at Iran’s Azadegan oil field. If Inpex does withdraw, it remains unclear what impact this will have on the future of the project. The development of the field is vital to Iran’s ambitions to increase oil production, or at the very least, arrest declines in production over the next several years.
TOKYO — Japan’s top oil explorer Inpex Corp may pull out of an oilfield project in Iran, joining other global firms in abandoning activities there to avoid U.S. sanctions, trade minister Akihiro Ohata said on Friday.
Inpex, in which Japan’s government holds a 19 percent stake, has not been named either on a list of firms targeted for U.S. sanctions against Iran for its nuclear plans or on another list of firms excluded from the sanctions, Ohata told reporters.
“Inpex is considering things including a withdrawal based on its own management judgment,” the minister said.
“I want to respect their business decision and refrain from interfering in the matter.”