US Waivers on Iranian Oil set to Expire May 1st

Iran is one of the largest global players in the oil game. This is one of the reasons that The United States has been so eager to see the overthrow of the Islamic Revolution. As of 2013, Iran had the fourth largest reserves of oil in the world. Their supply of it to the global market affects the price a good deal. This was one of the concerns that the global market had when the US decided to cancel the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The US has declared its intention to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero.

The US directly lied about Iran having a nuclear program with falsified evidence by Israel. All of the other signatories to the agreement reject the US and Israel’s claim. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified over 15 times Iran is in full compliance. The claim that Iran violated the JCPOA is an established lie that is only repeated by those who wish to harm Iran.

Now, when the US withdrew from the agreement, they declared an embargo on Iran’s oil. What the US has decided to do is disallow anyone else from purchasing Iran’s oil. Iran’s customer countries were threatened with sanctions if they did not follow the US’s demand. The political implications of this were quite severe with many US allies who were customers rallying in opposition. One cannot simply dump such a larger supplier with no substitute. So, the US created a grace period in which those countries would be expected to find new suppliers. Those waivers from the sanctions are now up.

Markets reacted to the end of the waivers with an increase in the global cost of oil as the supply will now constrict. “Oil topped $74 a barrel on Monday, the highest since November. Brent crude rose as much as 3.3 percent to $74.31 a barrel, the highest since Nov. 1.”[1] What’s important to keep in mind here is that the US is also squeezing out the oil supply fellow anti-imperialist country Venezuela. These restrictions from purchasing oil are set to hit India and China the hardest as they’re the biggest customers. Both countries were the force behind the lobbying for exceptions or waivers.

Saudi Arabia, a key US ally and major oil producer said that it was willing to make up the supply shortfall, but wanted to investigate the impacts on the market before doing so. It’s certainly not a coincidence that the Saudis are stepping in as they’re long-running enemies of Iran, and a political driving force behind the supply cut demands on them. They’ve certainly leveraged their compliance with US imperialist interests well.

However, it is not all bad news for consumers. Goldman Sachs says that the removal of the waivers will have little impact on the overall price in the long run. A short while after the deadline to stop buying Iranian oil (May 1st) the price is expected to level out. Only the initial “shock” of the supply is expected to have any significant impact. They still expect prices to decline into 2020 as markets will be better supplied. While they expect Iran’s exports to decline by 900,000 barrels per day (bpd), a 2 million bpd is expected to be available later this year. [2]

Iran may not be in as bad a position as many expect. Initially US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that Iran’s oil exports would be reduced to zero. Many experts disagree with him as such an event is  impossible. Many don’t believe that China will completely eliminate their purchases from them. Previously China has rejected the threat from the US and actually increased their imports. This would also mean higher prices for US allies in refineries who would be buying from the US instead. South Korea is set to receive fast-growing condensate, and also naphtha, but it will cost more to transport because it’s coming from a greater distance. “According to traders, voyage period for import of crude from the Middle East is about two weeks, whereas this period for US crude will be about a month.” [3]

Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at Energy Aspects doubts that Saudi Arabia can bring its increased supply to bear in enough time. He thinks it could take the Saudis up to a year to fill the supply gap. [3] ‘“The Saudis do not have 2 million bpd of spare capacity as it would imply production of 12 million bpd. They can likely produce a maximum of 11 million and even that will be running their system at stress levels,” Garry Ross, head of global oil analytics at S&P Global, said.'[3]

There’s more to consider. On May 22nd, Iraq announced that it will be increasing its purchase of gas from Iran by 13% by January 2020. This was announced by the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity. They say that there is no way for them to cease using Iran gas. Doing so would cost them a loss of 4,000 megawatts in output for the country. This is significant because Iraq lives under US military occupation. Iraq is only in this position because of the US invasion of the country beginning back in 2002. [4]

The US is playing a very dangerous game. Oil politics has been very violent in the past. No country can operate without fuel. They’re only able to do this because of their hegemonic position in the world. This kind of economic bullying has its repercussions. Already China and the rest of the BRICS countries are getting fed up with US demands and are building alternative financial organizations. The Europeans too are losing their patience with US actions. There may very well be retaliation sometime soon for the US.