PHOTO: Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh with visiting Venezuelan, Qatari, and Iraqi counterparts on Wednesday
Challenging allies, foes, and analysts, Iran has lashed out at Russia and Saudi Arabia over their attempt to limit oil production and shore up global prices.
Last week, leading powers in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) held urgent meetings as the oil price neared $30 per barrel, almost 75% down from $114 in summer 2014.
Russia and Saudi Arabia, despite being on opposite sides in the Syrian civil war, had a high-profile meeting to agree a limit on output. A delegation from Venezuela, Iraq, and Qatar then went to Tehran to get Iranian accession to the arrangements.
Some analysts and media declared “Iranian endorsement” of the plan. They latched onto a statement by Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh that “Iran backs any measures which help stabilise the market and improve the price of crude oil”.
However, Zanganeh’s statement was far from conclusive. At the same time, Iranian officials and media proclaimed that, far from holding down production, Tehran would pursue its plan to increase exports after the removal of sanctions over its nuclear program. Sales would rise from 1.4 million barrels per day to almost 2 million bpd.
The headline in Iranian state outlets was not Zanganeh’s statement but a declaration that the Islamic Republic had set a record by loading 7.1 million barrels in 48 hours for delivery to Europe, a market cut off after sanctions in 2012.
An senior official at the National Iranian Oil Company repeated on Saturday that Iran will increase its oil exports by 500,000 barrels per day within a month.
Mohsen Qamsari, NIOC’s international affairs director, said, “Most of the added volume will go to European countries.” He pointed to even greater rises in sales: “We are now in talks to make a further boost to oil exports. This will take some time and we hope it would be realized in a logical period of time.”
“Iran Taken Aback by Surprise Agreement”
This morning Press TV confirms the Iranian rejection of production limits with criticism of the “surprise agreement” between Russia and Iran. The site claims, “Tehran was apparently taken aback after Russian Energy Minster Alexander Novak traveled to Doha and agreed with his Saudi counterpart Ali al-Naimi to freeze oil output at near-record levels.”
The site says Zanganeh’s statement to the visiting OPEC delegation was “a bid to keep up appearances” and continues:
Other Iranian officials…cast aside the diplomatic language. Iran’s OPEC envoy said it was “illogical” to ask [Tehran] to freeze its oil production level….
Zangeneh also indicated that Tehran would not agree to freezing its output at January levels, saying the country would not give up its appropriate share of the global oil market.
According to the site, Russia has responded by accepting the Iranian refusal. Energy Minister Novak is quoted in a television interview on Saturday, “As I’ve said before, Iran has quite constructively reacted as a whole to the proposals that are currently being discussed by our four partners, but I’d say that Iran isn’t ready to join them yet.”
Quoting Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky, Press TV reassures that talks for a $5 billion Russian loan — badly needed for Iran’s still-crippled economy — is not linked to an acceptance of production limits.