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Snuffing out Iran’s Oil Will Bring Stability to the World

Snuffing out Iran’s Oil Will Bring Stability to the World

Thursday, 25 April, 2019 - 08:00
Salman Al-Dossary
Salman Al-Dossary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

When the US administration - in its strategy to deal with Iran - relied on a strong whip of sanctions, promising to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero and threatening anyone who deals with Tehran, the latter bet on US President Donald Trump’s failure to convince the world of his position.

The rest of the world rebelled against the American actions. Even in July, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani mocked Trump’s threat to halt Iranian oil exports, saying his country had a dominant position in the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Today, as Washington pursued its strategy by announcing that it would end all sanctions exemptions starting May 2 – the waivers that had so far allowed eight countries to buy Iranian oil without falling under US penalties – it dealt the strongest blow with the aim to reduce Iran’s crude oil exports to less than one million barrels per day, compared to 3.6 million barrels per day in 2016.

The allies rallied against Iran have come to realize that the sanctions would have no effect on the structure of the regime unless the waivers are canceled, which has already happened.

We can say that decreasing the export of Iranian oil is the effective way for the US strategy to exert pressure on Tehran. It is true that the declared goal of bringing Iran’s future oil exports to zero may be difficult and will take a long time, but it is certain that exports will decrease significantly, which will be painful for the Iranian economy.

Trump’s administration, when it abandoned the nuclear deal, knew that the mere withdrawal would be futile if it was not accompanied by pressure on the regime. Hence, the US sanctions are now targeted at driving Iran’s oil sales to zero.

Consequently, mounting economic pressure, further financial crises and rising unemployment levels will lead to what is required to “change the behavior” of the Tehran regime, which will be deprived of 40 percent of its revenues from oil sales.

Greece, Italy and Taiwan, for example, one of the top 10 buyers of Iranian oil, said they had permanently stopped their imports from Tehran, even though that they were under the US exemptions.

Since the start of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports, there has been a remarkable decline in Iran’s role abroad, as it faces the risk of not being able to finance its agents in the Middle East, such as the militias that fight proxy wars in Syria, in addition, the Hezbollah party has started to openly show its financial crisis.

Preventing Iran from obtaining the funds it needs to finance its foreign policy, its agents and its missile program, is the best solution to change its behavior without firing a single bullet. A stable Middle East cannot be envisioned if Iran continues to fund its militias throughout the Arab world.

Apart from Iran’s repeated heroic rhetoric and its latest threat - perhaps the 100th - to close the Strait of Hormuz, the most telling description of its current reality was expressed by its Oil Minister, Bijan Zangeneh, who in February said US sanctions were tougher than the eight-year war his country had waged with Iraq.

If the sanctions that allowed some exceptions to Tehran’s oil export had a huge impact on the country, what will be the case when Iran loses 20 percent of its income only a few days from now?!

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