Million-barrel oil sale by Iran ends in failure

JEDDAH: An attempt by Iran on Sunday to counter new US sanctions on its crucial oil trade ended in failure.

Tehran offered a million barrels of oil to private buyers on IRENEX, the Iranian energy index, at an initial base price of $79.16 per barrel.

The offer attracted limited bids of $16 below the base price as trading began. A final buyer emerged after the price was dropped to $74.85 per barrel in the closing hours — and for only 280,000 of the million barrels on offer.

Iran refused to disclose the identity of the buyer, and said only that a conglomerate of private companies had made the purchase through three brokerages.

The sales flop is a blow to Iran’s hopes of circumventing renewed US oil sanctions, which begin on Nov. 4. They follow US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal in May from the 2015 agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The plan to sell oil on the energy exchange once a week was proposed in July by vice president Eshaq Jahangiri to “defeat America’s efforts … to stop Iran’s oil exports.” Tehran hopes selling to private buyers will make it harder for the US to monitor and stop its sales.

“With the imminent return of a new wave of sanctions, the government is determined to utilize the maneuvering ability of the private sector to sell Iran’s oil and find new markets,” said Hamidreza Salehi, director of Iran’s energy exports federation.

Iran’s oil exports are estimated to have dropped by a third since May.


Utopian future

Meanwhile, a plan unveiled by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for Iran to be a world leader in science, technology and innovation by 2065 has been greeted with widespread ridicule.

The plan promises the elimination of poverty and corruption, with the Iranian economy among the world’s top 10. “The environment, natural resources, clean water, energy, and food safety will be no problem anywhere in the country and everyone will equally benefit from these resources. New resources will be discovered, and a surplus of opportunities will be created that leaves no one empty handed,” the plan says.

Khamenei “went public with the plan when the country is in the throes of a severe economic, social, political and environmental crisis — a situation many regard as being so dire that it is an extreme challenge to even predict what the next year will look like,” Ali Ranjipour, an analyst with the BBC Persian service, told the US-based Iran News Wire. 

“This is a utopian future with no link to reality, a fantasy scenario bolstered by nostalgia.”

The Iranian-American Harvard scholar Dr. Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News: “This is not the first time Iranian leaders have used such rhetoric and made promises that cannot be fulfilled.

“Khamenei failed to address the underlying reasons behind Iran’s poor economy, which include political and financial corruption at the top, support for foreign militia groups, mismanagement of public funds, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ military adventurism across the region.

“As long as these factors exist, Iran’s economy will continue to deteriorate and ordinary people will suffer. The regime is facing significant pressure from the public due to the misalignment between the fortunes of the Iranian regime and the ordinary population.

“Khamenei is attempting to appeal to the public through collections of words rather than actions.  His plan is doomed to fail because the regime’s economic problems are systemic and deeply embedded within the theocratic establishment.” 

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