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China, Turkey, India Silent on Buying Iran’s Oil as US Ban Begins
May 03, 2019
Iran’s biggest likely remaining oil customers, China, Turkey and India, were silent about purchases of Iranian crude Thursday as a total U.S. ban on such trade took effect, leaving their next moves a mystery.

The Trump administration was equally silent about what action it might take if any of the three countries continues to purchase Iranian oil after Thursday, with no statements on the subject issued during the day by the departments of State or Treasury.

A six-month grace period granted by the United States for China, Turkey, India and five other governments to reduce their Iranian oil imports to zero expired Wednesday. In an April 22 statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said no nation would receive any further exemptions or waivers from U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil industry last November. The sanctions are part of a U.S. bid to pressure Iran into negotiating a new deal to end its alleged nuclear weapons program and other malign behaviors.

Iran has said its nuclear program is peaceful and it intends to keep exporting oil, its main revenue source, in defiance of the U.S. sanctions.

Washington has been encouraging Iran’s oil customers to switch to other major oil producers such as Gulf Arab nations that have pledged to keep energy markets appropriately supplied. Pompeo also has said the United States will enforce its unilateral ban on Iran’s oil trade and warned that paying Iran for its crude entails “risks” that will “not … be worth the benefits,” a reference to the possibility of purchasers facing U.S. secondary sanctions.

Turkey

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said diversifying Ankara’s oil sources in a short time “does not seem possible.”

Cavusoglu said Turkish refineries that have been processing Iranian crude are capable of handling oil from Iraq but not from many other nations, whom he did not name. He said Turkey would need to upgrade the technology of its refineries in order to import oil from those other countries, requiring the refineries to be shut down for a period of time.

“This would have a cost. However you look at it, the unilateral decision made by the U.S. is adversely affecting everyone,” Cavusoglu said. “The U.S. should review its decisions.”

The top Turkish diplomat did not say whether Ankara will buy Iranian oil in future.

But Turkey has been significantly reducing its reliance on Iranian imports since the start of the U.S. sanctions waiver. Data from Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Authority show the country imported an average of 209,000 tons of Iranian crude per month from November through February, the first four months of the waiver period. It had been importing an average of 701,000 tons per month in the prior 10 months, accounting for around one-fifth of its total oil imports for the period.

China

China, Iran’s biggest oil customer, made no comment on Thursday’s expiry of the six-month U.S. waiver for buying Iranian crude. But its initial response to the U.S. decision not to extend the waiver was similar to that of Turkey. In an April 24 news briefing, Chinese Foreign Minister spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing also opposes the unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdictions” of the United States. He also urged Washington not to undermine what he called Beijing’s lawful and legitimate “cooperation” with Iran.

India

India also did not comment Thursday. In an April 23 tweet, Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said New Delhi has a plan to maintain an “adequate” supply of crude to Indian refineries, adding: “There will be additional supplies from other major oil-producing countries.”


Govt has put in place a robust plan for adequate supply of crude oil to Indian refineries.There will be additional supplies from other major oil producing countries;Indian refineries are fully prepared to meet the national demand for petrol,diesel & other Petroleum products
— Chowkidar Dharmendra Pradhan (@dpradhanbjp) April 23, 2019
Pradhan did not name those countries or say whether the additional supplies would completely replace crude from Iran, which had been India’s third biggest supplier a year ago.

Indian media have said Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj appealed to Pompeo in an April 27 phone call for New Delhi to have more time to import Iranian oil without being hit by U.S. secondary sanctions. Swaraj was quoted as calling for flexibility in the U.S. position because India is in the midst of a general election and wants the next government to make decisions about whom to buy oil from.

China and India had been reducing their dependence on Iranian oil before the end of the U.S. waiver period. An April 30 report by Reuters showed both nations significantly cut their Iranian crude imports in the January to March quarter compared to the same period a year before, with China making a 28% reduction and India a 40% reduction in imported barrels per day.

What will the three do?

Frank Verrastro, a Washington-based energy analyst at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told VOA Persian he expects further reductions in China’s purchases of Iranian oil.

“They have been increasing purchases of similar-quality Saudi oil as well as looking at alternative supplies from the U.S., other Mideast nations and Russia,” Verrastro said in a Tuesday email.

But Verrastro said Beijing also may try to keep importing some Iranian crude in ways that bypass the U.S. financial system and sanctions regime. He said China could barter with Iran, enable Iran to repay loans with oil, or make non-U.S. dollar purchases of Iranian crude.

Indian strategic affairs analyst Manoj Joshi of New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation told VOA the U.S. ban on Iranian oil exports presents India not just with an economic challenge but also a foreign policy one.

“It puts us in a very awkward spot,” Joshi said in a Thursday interview, noting the move will hurt India’s ties with Iran. “The U.S. may be our partner, but we cannot have a congruence of interests in everything. When there are no options, what do you do?”

Turkey is likely to wait and see what Iran’s bigger customers China and India do before deciding whether to keep importing Iranian oil, according to Hakki Uygur, acting director of Ankara’s Center of Iranian Studies. In a Wednesday interview with VOA Turkish, he said that if China and India maintain their recent levels of imports, Turkey may do the same.

“But if the U.S. sanctions are enforced strictly, Iraq would be one of our most important secondary sources of oil,” Uygur said.

 

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Secretary Pompeo Tightens Nuclear Restrictions on Iran

Press Statement
Morgan Ortagus
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 03, 2019


The Trump administration continues to hold the Iranian regime accountable for activities that threaten the region’s stability and harm the Iranian people. This includes denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon. As part of the administration’s unprecedented maximum pressure campaign to address the full range of Iran’s destructive activities, Secretary Pompeo has today tightened restrictions on the regime’s nuclear program.

Starting May 4, assistance to expand Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant beyond the existing reactor unit could be sanctionable. In addition, activities to transfer enriched uranium out of Iran in exchange for natural uranium could be sanctionable. Iran must stop all proliferation-sensitive activities, including uranium enrichment, and we will not accept actions that support the continuation of such enrichment. We will also no longer permit the storage for Iran of heavy water it has produced in excess of current limits; any such heavy water must no longer be available to Iran in any fashion.

Additionally, Secretary Pompeo today took steps to permit the continuation of projects that help restrict Iran’s ability to reconstitute its past nuclear weapons program. Our policy preserves oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program, reduces proliferation risks, constrains Iran’s ability to shorten its “breakout time” to a nuclear weapon, and prevents the regime from reconstituting sites for proliferation-sensitive purposes. We reserve the right to revoke or modify our policy covering these nonproliferation activities at any time if Iran violates its nuclear obligations or commitments or we conclude that such projects no longer provide value in constraining Iranian nuclear activities. Secretary Pompeo continues to believe that Iran must declare to the IAEA a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program, and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.
Additionally, he reiterates his call that Iran must stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing.

Today’s action follows earlier steps to rein in Iran’s nuclear program. In November 2018, the United States re-imposed sanctions on nuclear cooperation with Iran, including by re-designating Atomic Energy Organization of Iran entities, and by placing new limits on foreign assistance that could expand Iran’s nuclear program. In March 2019, the United States designated an additional 31 Iranian individuals and entities linked to Iran’s WMD proliferation-sensitive activities. These included scientists who worked on Iran’s former nuclear weapons program and who remain employed by Iran on potentially sensitive dual-use technologies and under the leadership of the former head of that nuclear weapons program.

The United States will continue to impose maximum pressure on the Iranian regime, and remains committed to denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon.

 

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U.S. to Extend Key Waivers Linked to Iran's Nuclear Program
By Nick Wadhams
May 04, 2019

  • Trump administration cutting waiver period to 90 days from 180
  • Decision will likely give some relief to European allies
The Trump administration will renew several key waivers that allow Iran to keep operating a limited civilian nuclear program, a move that heads off a clash with European allies and Tehran over the fate of a 2015 deal that Trump abandoned last year.

The U.S. is extending five waivers the administration had previously granted allowing nations that remain in the deal to engage in nonproliferation activities and nuclear research at three sites -- Fordow, Bushehr and Arak -- without facing sanctions, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Ford said Friday. Instead of granting the waivers for 180 days, the administration will shorten their term to 90 days.

Two other waivers, allowing Iran to ship surplus heavy water to Oman and to ship out any enriched uranium that exceeds a 300 kilogram limit in exchange for natural, or “yellowcake” uranium, will be revoked. The second of those revocations may be especially important because it would mean Iran will have a much harder time disposing of any uranium it enriches -- thus forcing it to choose between violating its nuclear obligations or stopping all enrichment, as the U.S. wants.

“We are tightening restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program as part of our pressure campaign,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, said in an interview. “Iran cannot have any path to a nuclear weapon.”

The Friday decision likely will be welcomed by European allies including France, Germany and the U.K., which had lobbied the White House to keep the waivers first allowed under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 accord that President Donald Trump withdrew from a year ago.
They and other proponents had argued that the exemptions were instrumental in reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation from Iran and gave the International Atomic Energy Agency daily access to the sites.

One waiver that was extended applies to the facility in Bushehr, on the Persian Gulf, where Russia provides enriched uranium to power the reactor and removes spent fuel rods. Revoking that would have allowed Iran to say it deserved the right to enrich uranium. The move would have also made it impossible for China to work with Iran to redesign its reactor at Arak.

“Our leadership is not comfortable with any mechanism that allows uranium enrichment,” Ford said. “We don’t want to give Iran a supposed excuse to continue to enrich.”

The State Department said Friday’s move maintains oversight of Iran’s nuclear program and “constrains Iran’s ability to shorten its ‘breakout time’ to a nuclear weapon,” according to department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is still insisting that Iran meet 12 demands the U.S. has laid out, including that it stop enriching uranium and end what the U.S. calls its “malign activity” in the Middle East.

The decision follows a fierce internal debate that’s now become familiar with the Trump administration, between Pompeo’s staff and National Security Adviser John Bolton’s team. Administration hawks, along with hardline allies on Capitol Hill, had argued that nearly all the waivers should be revoked.

Critics of the waivers had found little wrong with the Bushehr one but were particularly angry with the one covering Fordow. They point to information that came out after Israel exposed Iran’s nuclear archive last year. That data showed Iran had built Fordow, near the holy city of Qom, solely to make weapons-grade uranium.


Arms control proponents skeptical of the administration’s hard-line approach had argued that revoking the waivers would have been more significant than the administration’s earlier moves to cut off Iranian oil revenue or designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group.

That’s because the nuclear waivers are at the very heart of the Iran nuclear deal, and denying them would make it all but impossible for Iran to keep abiding by its terms. It also would have raised the possibility of sanctions against Russia, China and the U.K., which all play roles in Iran’s limited nuclear program.

“Revoking these waivers, you’re basically almost preventing the other JCPOA parties from providing the peaceful nuclear technical assistance that is the basis of Iran’s nuclear commitments,” said Kenneth Katzman, an Iran expert at the Congressional Research Service.

Bolton had been joined by hawkish Republican senators including Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who had argued that Iran wants the reactors going so it can keep its nuclear-weapons program on ice and not abandon it completely.

On Thursday, Cruz successfully delayed a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Jeffrey Eberhardt, the nominee to be Trump’s special representative for nonproliferation, as part of a broader bid to press the administration to revoke the waivers.

(Updates with State Department statement in 9th paragraph.)

 

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Iran Says It Will Continue To Enrich Uranium Despite U.S. Pressure
May 04, 2019 14:30 GMT
By RFE/RL

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani (file photo)

Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani (file photo)

Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani says Iran will continue to enrich uranium in accordance with its nuclear accord with several world powers regardless of moves by the United States to put a stop to it.

"Under the [nuclear accord] Iran can produce heavy water and this is not in violation of the agreement. Therefore, we will carry on with enrichment activity," the semiofficial news agency ISNA quoted Larijani as saying on May 4.

The United States under President Donald Trump has ramped up pressure on the Iranian government as it seeks to end what it calls Tehran's "malign" activities in the region.

On May 3, the Trump administration slapped new restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities as it looks to force Tehran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant, intensifying a campaign aimed at halting Tehran's ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power.

Iran has kept its nuclear program within the main limits imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), despite the U.S. pullout from the agreement a year ago.

In pulling out of the JCPOA, Trump said the terms were not tough enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and he accused Tehran of violating the "spirit" of the accord by financing Islamic militants in the region.

Iran denies it supports insurgent activity and has said its nuclear program is strictly for civilian energy purposes.

Despite increasing pressure on Iran, the United States on May 3 extended five sanction waivers that will allow Russian, China, and European countries to continue to work with Iran’s civilian nuclear program.

At the same time, the State Department said it was ending two waivers related to Iranian exports of enriched uranium in what it called "the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime." All of the waivers were due to expire on May 4.

The 45- to 90-day extensions were shorter than the 180 days granted previously but can be renewed.

 

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US have invaded Iraq on suspicions of building centrifuges, here obviously they are bluffing.
 

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Tehran to Announce Suspending Parts of Nuclear Deal
Tuesday, 7 May, 2019

European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wait for a meeting with officials from P5+1, the European Union and Iran at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne March 31, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool

London - Asharq Al-Awsat

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will announce on Wednesday his country’s response to the withdrawal of US President Donald Trump from the nuclear deal, Iranian state news agencies reported, quoting a source familiar with the matter as saying that Tehran had informed the signatory parties of a partial or total suspension of some of its commitments to the nuclear agreement.

“The partial and total reduction of some of Iran’s commitments and the resumption of part of the nuclear activities that were suspended under the nuclear agreement are the first Iranian step to respond to the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the European countries’ failure to fulfill their commitments,” an Iranian news agency said, quoting an official of the committee overseeing the implementation of the JCPOA.

The United States announced last Friday several measures that target Iran's nuclear program, and suspended sanctions exemptions related to the exchange of enriched uranium with natural uranium.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last week referred to "multiple options" to be discussed at the highest levels in Tehran to respond to the White House’s moves. Among these options is withdrawal from the NPT.

However, the official IRNA news agency quoted an Iranian official as saying on Monday that his country has left the door open to diplomacy, noting that Iran's steps were “another opportunity for diplomacy, and to rectify the unilateral moves adopted by the parties to the agreement.”

The Iranian official criticized the positions of the European countries since Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, and said: “They made promises they failed to implement.”

The Iranian announcement will be preceded by a meeting between the parties to the JCPOA, which is supposed to be held in Vienna on Tuesday at the level of experts, to discuss the latest status of the nuclear agreement and the implementation of the special European mechanism launched by Britain, France and Germany in order to circumvent the US sanctions.

 

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Iran Says Using All Resources to Sell Oil in 'Grey Market'
05 May, 2019

FILE PHOTO: An oil pump jack is seen at sunset near Midland, Texas, US, May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder/File Photo

Asharq Al-Awsat

Iran has mobilized all its resources to sell oil in a "grey market", bypassing US sanctions that Tehran sees as illegitimate, state media quoted Deputy Oil Minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia as saying on Sunday.

The United States, which last year withdrew from a 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers, has told buyers of Iranian oil to stop purchases by May 1 or face sanctions.

Iran says it will continue to export oil in defiance of US sanctions, part of a campaign by Washington aimed at halting Tehran's ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power.

"We have mobilized all of the country's resources and are selling oil in the 'grey market'," state news agency IRNA quoted Zamaninia as saying.

Zamaninia gave no details about the "grey market", but Iran is widely reported to have sold oil at steep discounts and often through private firms during sanctions earlier this decade.

"We certainly won't sell 2.5 million barrels per day as under the (nuclear deal)," Zamaninia said, giving no figures for current sales.

"We will need to make serious decisions about our financial and economic management, and the government is working on that."

"This is not smuggling. This is countering sanctions which we do not see as just or legitimate," Zamaninia said.


 

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Tehran to Continue Enriching Uranium, Rouhani Warns Against Internal Divisions
05 May, 2019

A general view of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, some 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran October 26, 2010. REUTERS/IRNA/Mohammad Babaie

London- Asharq Al-Awsat

As the US intensifies its pressure campaign aimed at curbing Tehran's ballistic missile program and its regional influence, the Iranian clerical-led regime reaffirmed its plans to resume enriching uranium, heavy (deuterium0-based) water and exporting oil.

Speaker Ali Larijani said Tehran would continue to enrich uranium and produce heavy water, regardless of restrictions on shipping abroad.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, for his part, warned that the recent host of US economic sanctions, a part of Washington strategy to counter Iranian malicious behavior, risks stoking internal tensions. Reformists in Rouhani’s administration and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei loyalists have been at odds on Iran’s response policy to pressure.

“Under the [nuclear accord] Iran can produce heavy water and this is not in violation of the agreement. Therefore, we will carry on with enrichment activity,” the semiofficial Iranian news agency, ISNA, quoted Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani as saying on May 4.

“We will enrich Uranium whether you move to buy it or not,” Larijani said.

On May 3, the US President Donald Trump's administration slapped new restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities as it looks to force Tehran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant, intensifying a campaign aimed at halting Tehran's ballistic missile program and curbing its regional power.

Despite increasing pressure on Iran, the United States on May 3 extended five sanction waivers that will allow Russian, China, and European countries to continue to work with Iran’s civilian nuclear program at Bushehr. But it said it may punish any activity that expands the site.

At the same time, the State Department said it was ending two waivers related to Iranian exports of enriched uranium in what it called “the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime.” All of the waivers were due to expire on May 4.

The 45- to 90-day extensions were shorter than the 180 days granted previously but can be renewed.

It was the third punitive action taken against Iran in as many weeks. Last week, it said it would grant no more sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian oil, accelerating its plan to push Iran’s oil exports to zero. The Trump administration also took the unprecedented step of designating Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.

“The Trump administration continues to hold the Iranian regime accountable for activities that threaten the region's stability and harm the Iranian people. This includes denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

The Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear accord a year ago and vowed "maximum pressure" aimed at curbing the regional role of Iran.”

 

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US Seeks to Force Iran to Stop Enriching Uranium
04 May, 2019

A general view of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, built by Russia, October 26, 2010. REUTERS/IRNA/Mohammad Babaie

Asharq Al-Awsat

The United States acted on Friday to force Iran to stop producing low-enriched uranium and expanding its only nuclear power plant even as it granted waivers allowing some countries to conduct civilian nuclear cooperation with the country.

In line with the 2015 nuclear deal, which was negotiated under former president Barack Obama and still enjoys strong support among European powers, Iran was limited to keeping 300 kilograms of uranium enriched up to 3.67 percent -- far below the level needed to build nuclear weapons.

As part of the agreement, Iran was to sell any enriched uranium above that threshold on international markets in return for natural uranium, with Russia a key player.

But in Friday's policy change, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would start to impose sanctions on anyone involved in the trade of natural for enriched uranium -- as well as in the storage of Iranian heavy water that was in excess of limits.

"The Trump administration continues to hold the Iranian regime accountable for activities that threaten the region's stability and harm the Iranian people. This includes denying Iran any pathway to a nuclear weapon," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

At the same time, Pompeo renewed waivers of US sanctions allowing Russia, China and European countries to pursue cooperation programs designed to prevent Iran from reactivating a defunct nuclear weapons program.

Facilities in the waiver extensions include the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Arak nuclear complex and the Tehran Research Reactor, the State Department said.

But, it said, the renewable waivers would be granted only for 90 days, a shorter period than the previous 180 days.

The moves are part of the Trump administration's efforts to impose international political and economic isolation on Tehran that began with the US withdrawal in May 2018 from the nuclear deal.

It was the third punitive action taken against Iran in as many weeks. Last week, it said it would grant no more sanctions waivers for countries buying Iranian oil, accelerating its plan to push Iran's oil exports to zero.

The Trump administration also took the unprecedented step of designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.



 

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Iran President's Brother Sentenced to Prison for Corruption
4 May, 2019


Iranian FM Mohamad Javad Zarif (L) stands alongside Hossein Fereidoun, President Rouhani's brother and advisor, during a press conference for Rouhani in Tehran in April 2015. (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s brother was sentenced to an unspecified term in prison for corruption, reported the semi-official ISNA news agency on Saturday.

Hossein Fereidoun, a close confidante of the president, will be able to appeal the verdict.

The financial misconduct charges date back to 2016, and were brought by hardliners who dominate the country's judiciary.

Rouhani changed his surname decades ago.

Fereidoun's trial began in February, and he's been free on bail since spending a night in prison in 2017.

He had played a role as part of the team that negotiated Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.

Iran has in the past jailed allies of former presidents for similar charges.

 

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'Feels Terrible': Iran a Year after US Sanctions Reimposed
Tuesday, 07 May, 2019


A money changer displays US and Iranian banknotes at the Grand Bazaar in central Tehran October 7, 2015. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Alireza says he used to dream of a better future in Iran and even saw himself getting a new car or house, but those days are now gone after he lost his job to reimposed US sanctions.

"My purchasing power has been cut, and my life is under pressure," said Alireza, an Iranian car industry veteran.

"I no longer see myself as middle-class. It feels terrible,” he said according to an AFP report Tuesday.

It is now one year since the United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear accord that promised Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for Tehran scaling back its nuclear program.

In 2015 when Iran struck the deal, hopes had been high it would end years of crippling economic isolation for the country.

Hotels were unable to handle the influx of investors from abroad and according to President Hassan Rouhani, Iran was set to benefit from an injection of $100 billion from foreign banks and companies.

"When the deal was working, it truly was a boom time. They were hiring left, right and center and we didn't have time to scratch our heads," said 42-year-old Alireza, who declined to give his last name.

But "everything was reversed" on May 8, 2018 when the United States withdrew from the deal, he told AFP.

Alireza said he lost his job at French automaker PSA Group, after years of working in different positions, along with hundreds of others, when the first wave of sanctions affecting the car industry were imposed that August.

"I've searched everywhere to find a job since then, but without any success," he said.

Calling the nuclear agreement the "worst deal ever", US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran's banking system, oil sales and trade in metals.

Most international firms that set up shop in Iran after the 2015 deal, including France's Total, PSA Group and Renault and Germany's Siemens, were consequently forced to either leave the country or minimize their presence.

The loss of jobs from foreign firms, a sharp currency devaluation and rampant inflation have made life "grim" for Alireza and many other middle-class Iranians.

After about 20 years as a sales and marketing expert in the auto industry, "I used to think of myself as an upper middle-class Iranian," said Alireza, who also says he has a long record of working with foreign firms in Iran.

In the good days of sanctions relief he could comfortably imagine getting a bigger house and a better car with some savings and a loan.

Yet living on unemployment insurance -- less than half of what he used to earn -- with dim job prospects make upward mobility a rare commodity.

"My salary is gone and house prices have soared... and it's just about impossible to buy a car now," said Alireza, who is married with no children.

According to Iran's central bank, the cost of homes in the capital has surged about 104 percent since March 2018 and the price of imported cars has grown beyond the reach of many.

Employment opportunities are scarce, too. Big domestic carmakers like Iran Khodro and SAIPA are also suffering from the US sanctions and dealing with financial problems of their own.

Alireza says he and his wife are still managing to provide for basic needs like food.

But although she is still employed their household income is now little more than a third of what it used to be.

But for many lower strata Iranians, essential goods like red meat, certain fruits and vegetables are too expensive to buy because of runaway inflation.

For many Iranians the 2018 US sanctions were reminiscent of the pre-nuclear deal period, when multilateral sanctions pushed the country into recession.

Alireza had it worse, however, as the same layoff scenario played out for him in 2012, too.

"I've been bitten by sanctions twice. I was laid off in just the same way back in 2012 when (PSA) called off its operations and left," he said. "It's like history repeating itself."

In 2015, the nuclear deal had given him hope for a steadily improving future with tangible benefits.

"But now I don't see the future to be any better than my recent past," he said. "Nothing will happen unless something major changes, like the last time."


 

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Boxed in: $1 billion of Iranian crude sits at China's Dalian port
April 30, 2019
Chen Aizhu, Florence Tan

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Some 20 million barrels of Iranian oil sitting on China’s shores in the northeast port of Dalian for the past six months now appears stranded as the United States hardens its stance on importing crude from Tehran.

Iran sent the oil to China, its biggest customer, ahead of the reintroduction of U.S. sanctions last November, as it looked for alternative storage for a backlog of crude at home.

The oil is being held in so-called bonded storage tanks at the port, which means it has yet to clear Chinese customs. Despite a six-month waiver to the start of May that allowed China to continue some Iranian imports, shipping data shows little of this oil has been moved.

Traders and refinery sources pointed to uncertainty over the terms of the waiver and said independent refiners had been unable to secure payment or insurance channels, while state refiners struggled to find vessels.

The future of the crude, worth well over $1 billion at current prices, has become even more unclear after Washington last week increased its pressure on Iran, saying it would end all sanction exemptions at the start of May.

“No responsible Chinese company with any international exposure will have anything to do with Iran oil unless they are specifically told by the Chinese government to do so,” said Tilak Doshi of oil and gas consultancy Muse, Stancil & Co in Singapore.

Iran previously stored oil in 2014 at Dalian during the last round of sanctions that was later sold to buyers in South Korea and India.

China last week formally complained to the United States over the unilateral Iran sanctions, but U.S. officials have said Washington is not considering a further short-term waiver or a wind-down period.


The 20 million barrels is equal to about a month’s worth of China’s imports from Iran over the past six months, or about two days of the country’s total imports.

Iran says it will continue to export oil in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

A senior official with the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters: “We will continue to sell our oil.”

“Iran is now desperate and will deal with anyone with steep discounts as long as they get paid somehow,” said Doshi.

Reuters Graphic
SOME OIL TAKEN

Some Iranian oil sent to Dalian has moved, according to a ship tracking analyst at Refinitiv.

Dan, a supertanker owned by NITC moved 2 million barrels of oil from Dalian more than 1,000 km (620 miles) to the south to the Ningbo Shi Hua crude oil terminal in March, according to Refinitiv data.


Ningbo is home to Sinopec’s Zhenhai refinery, one of the country’s largest oil plants with a capacity of 500,000 barrels a day and a top processor of Iranian oil.

Sinopec declined to comment.

Reuters Graphic
The Iranian tanker was chartered by state-run Chinese trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, according to Refinitiv analyst Emma Li. The NITC official confirmed the oil was taken by Zhuhai Zhenrong.

Zhenrong was started in the 1990s and brokered the first oil supply deals between Iran and China. At that time, Iran was supplying oil to China to pay for arms supplied by Beijing during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Zhuhai Zhenrong still specializes mainly in buying Iranian oil.

An official at the general manager’s office with Zhuhai Zhenrong’s office in Beijing said he could not immediately comment. The company did not reply to a fax seeking comment.

For now, more Iranian oil is heading to China, with the supertankers Stream and Dream II due to arrive in eastern China from Iran on May 5 and May 7, respectively, Refinitiv data showed.

Some of this crude may be from Chinese investments into Iranian oilfields, a sanctions grey area.

Whether China will keep buying oil from Iran remains unclear, but analysts at Fitch Solutions said in a note “there may be scope for imports via barter or non-compliance from ... China.”


Muse, Stancil & Co’s Doshi said the only way to get the Iranian oil out of Dalian now was by cheating.

“Only rogue parties might try to cheat the system and try to pass the Iranian oil at Dalian as something else via fraudulent docs. But I doubt this is easy or can amount to much in terms of volume.”

Reporting by Chen Aizhu and Florence Tan in Singapore; additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and Min Zhang in Beijing; Editing by Henning Gloystein and Richard Pullin


 

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Europe May Reimpose Sanctions on Iran if it Reneges on Nuclear Deal
07 May, 2019

European officials and Iranian FM Mohammed Javad Zarif (C) are seen following nuclear talks at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne April 2, 2015. (Reuters)

Asharq Al-Awsat

France warned on Tuesday that Europe may reimpose sanctions on Iran if it reneges on parts of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

"We do not want Tehran to announce tomorrow actions that would violate the nuclear agreement, because in this case we Europeans would be obliged to reimpose sanctions as per the terms of the agreement," a French source said.

French presidential sources warned on Tuesday that European powers will turn to a dispute mechanism that could reimpose international sanctions.

Iranian state news reports have said Iran does not plan to pull out of the deal, but will revive some nuclear activity that was halted under it. Iran's president is due to speak on Wednesday.

France, Germany and Britain, the European signatories to the agreement that lifted sanctions against Tehran in exchange for restrictions on Iran's atomic activities, have scrambled to save the deal amid US efforts to isolate Tehran since it announced its withdrawal a year ago.

However, the three have repeatedly warned Iran that it must comply with all aspects of the deal and most importantly the elements related to nuclear activity.

Those restrictions have increased the time Iran would need to build a nuclear bomb if it chose to do so. The United States and the UN nuclear watchdog believe Iran had a nuclear weapons program that it abandoned. Iran denies ever having had one.

A second French official later said the suggestion that sanctions would be reimposed if Tehran reneged was referring to a mechanism within the deal itself.

"We don't want to go as far as sanctions and want Iran to respect its commitments and that's the message we passed to Tehran and Washington," the official said.

The deal provides a mechanism for states to complain if the accord is being breached, and ultimately for sanctions to be reimposed unless the UN Security Council votes to extend relief.

"Tomorrow, 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 first official said.

 

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Iran to Stop Respecting Limits on Nuclear Activities
08 May, 2019


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (AP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Iran announced on Wednesday that it has started scaling back parts of its commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal unless other powers help Tehran bypass renewed US sanctions, amid rising tensions with Washington.

The move was part of a package of measures announced by Iran in response to the sweeping unilateral sanctions reimposed by Washington in the 12 months since it quit the agreement, which have had a severe effect on the Iranian economy.

Under the landmark deal agreed by US President Donald Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, the six parties to the agreement were supposed to lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in return for it reining in its nuclear activities to ease fears it was seeking the capability to produce an atomic bomb.

But the promised sanctions relief has failed to materialize as European and Asian banks and oil companies have moved swiftly to abide by the renewed US sanctions for fear of financial or commercial repercussions.

Iran warned that if the five other parties to the agreement - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia -- failed to deliver on their commitments within 60 days to help Tehran benefit from the deal despite the US sanctions, it would suspend other key limits set by the deal.

In a speech broadcast on national television, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he had written to the remaining signatories saying Tehran would start rolling back on its commitments by stopping selling enriched uranium and heavy water to other nations.

“If the five countries came to the negotiating table and we reached an agreement, and if they could protect our interests in the oil and banking sectors, we will go back to square one (and will resume our commitments),” he said.

Rouhani warned of a firm response if Iran’s nuclear case is referred again to the UN Security Council, but said Tehran was ready for negotiations.

Iran's Supreme National Security Council said the measures were necessary to "secure its rights and bring back balance" after the unilateral moves by the Trump administration.

Iran “does not at the current stage consider itself committed to observing restrictions regarding storing enriched uranium stocks and heavy water stocks," the Supreme National Security Council said.

"The remaining parties to the (deal) are given 60 days to implement their commitments, in particular in the fields of banking and oil," the council added.

"In the next stage Iran will also stop observing restrictions on the level of uranium enrichment and measures regarding modernizing Arak heavy water reactor."

Uranium enriched to much higher levels than Iran's current stocks can be used as the fissile core of a nuclear weapon, while heavy water is a source of plutonium which can be used an alternative way to produce a warhead.

The deal restricted Iran from enriching uranium to more than 3.67 percent, the level commonly used in power generation, and barred it from building additional heavy water reactors or accumulating stocks of more than 130 tons of heavy water.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is on an official visit to Moscow, stressed Iran's actions were not in breach of the nuclear deal.

“After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue.”

Zarif said the remaining countries had a “narrowing window” to save the deal.

Emphasizing that "Iran will not withdraw" from the deal, Zarif said "this right has been set for Iran in the JCPOA (nuclear deal); we are not operating outside of the JCPOA but are in fact working in its framework."

France’s defense minister said she wanted to keep the nuclear deal alive but warned Iran it could face more sanctions if it did not honor its part of the deal.

“Today nothing would be worse than Iran, itself, leaving this agreement,” Florence Parly told BFM TV.

China’s foreign ministry said the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement should be fully implemented and all sides have a responsibility to ensure it happens.

Wednesday’s developments came as Washington stepped up its war of words against Tehran, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo making a hastily organized visit to neighboring Iraq where he accused Iran of planning "imminent" attacks.

Adding to the tensions, Washington announced it was deploying an aircraft carrier strike group with several nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East and national security adviser John Bolton warned Washington would respond with "unrelenting force" to any attack by Tehran.

 

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Iran announces partial withdrawal from nuclear deal
Last Update: Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Iran has decided to suspend some of its commitments under a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, the foreign ministry announced on Wednesday.

“The decision of the high security council to ‘stop acting on some of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s commitments under the (nuclear deal)’ was communicated to the heads of state of the countries still party to the deal -- Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia,” the ministry said.

Iranian state television reported that letters outlining the Islamic Republic’s partial withdrawal from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers have been delivered to ambassadors.

State TV made the announcement Wednesday. It did not elaborate on what steps Iran planned to take.

The letters were to be delivered to the leaders of Britain, China, the European Union, France and Germany, informing them of Iran’s decision to stop implementing "some commitments" under a 2015 nuclear deal.

All were signatories to the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. A letter was also to go to Russia.

The move came a year to the date President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord.

The letters will come as officials in the Islamic Republic previously warned that Iran might increase its uranium enrichment, potentially pulling away from a deal it has sought to salvage for months.

Enriching uranium
Iranian officials also said on Wednesday that Iran will no longer respect limits it agreed on its enriched uranium and heavy water stocks under a 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said the measure was necessary to “secure its rights and bring back balance” after Washington's abandonment of the agreement exactly one year ago on May 8, 2018.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran does not at the current stage consider itself committed to observing restrictions regarding storing enriched uranium stocks and heavy water stocks,” the council said.

“The remaining parties to the (deal) are given 60 days to implement their commitments, in particular in the fields of banking and oil,” it added.




 

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