PHOTO: Iran’s oil exports predicted to be 2.1 million barrels per day in May


Iran’s oil exports have reached their highest level since the tightening of US and European sanctions in 2012, with a further rise predicted in May.

A “source with knowledge of the country’s crude lifting plans” told Reuters that Iran loaded 2.3 million barrels per day in April, about 15% higher than predicted by the International Energy Agency.

Based on the data, Iran’s May exports are predicted to be about 2.1 million bpd this month, about 60% higher than a year ago. Loadings to Asia in April were 1.7 million bpd, the highest since 2011, and Iran is also restoring sales to Turkey, France, Spain, and Greece.

The US and European sanctions in 2012 crippled the Islamic Republic’s movement of oil by removing insurance on tankers, and they blocked essential financial transactions. Iran was unable to receive payment for sales outside Asia or collect billions of dollars in debts from customers such as India.

Government officials, including President Rouhani and Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, have declared the surge in exports since January’s implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal.

The boost has bolstered the Rouhani Government, which has declared that the implementation will be followed by an economic recovery after years of limited production and investment, mismanagement, and corruption. The Government should soon present its long-delayed 2016-17 budget to Parliament, as well as its 2016-2020 National Development Plan.

However, it is unclear how much of the export surge is from oil already stored on-shore or on floating tankers — indicating a short-term rise — or from a longer-term increase in production.

During a visit to Tehran this week, David Lipton, the International Monetary Fund’s Deputy Managing Director, said that the higher oil exports would fulfill Rouhani’s hopes of recovery. Lipton projected that, if Iran can maintain sales and Iranian banks reconnect to the international financial system, GDP will rise 4 to 4.5% “over the medium term”.

Human Rights Activist Mohammadi Given 10-Year Sentence

Human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has been sentenced to an additional four years in prison, according to her husband.

Mohammadi was given a 10-year term, overtaking an earlier six-year sentence, for membership in a campaign for the abolition of the death penalty.

First arrested in 1998, Mohammadi was prosecuted in 2010 for her role as the deputy head of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, co-founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. She was given an 11-year term, later reduced to six years.

Her husband, Taghi Rahmani, said the new sentence was “revenge [against] a human rights defender to keep her in prison and intimidate other rights activists”.

Saying that Mohammadi was only a member of the movement, he asked, “Why is working to decrease the high number of executions in Iran a crime?”

The latest punishment is formally for “meeting and conspiring against the Islamic Republic” and “acting against Iran’s national security”. Rahmani said the charges stemmed from Mohammadi’s interviews with Persian-language media based outside of Iran and a 2014 meeting in Tehran with former European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Russia: We’ll Complete Delivery of S-300 Missile Systems to Iran by End of 2016

Russia will complete the delivery of S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran by the end of the year, according to an aide to President Vladimir Putin.

Vladimir Kozhin, the assistant for military-technical cooperation, said one S-300 battalion has already been supplied.

Iran displayed elements of an S-300 system in a military parade last month.

Moscow and Tehran signed a contract in 2007 for the delivery of five battalion sets of S-300 PMU1 air defense missile systems. However, Russia suspended the deal in 2010 amid pressure from the US and Israel.

Putin signed a decree in April 2015 lifting the suspension.

Supreme Leader’s Aide — “Assad Regime is Golden Ring in Line of Resistance”

The Supreme Leader’s top aide Ali Akbar Velayati has reaffirmed Iran’s deepening commitment to Syria’s Assad regime, declaring that Damascus is the “golden ring in the line of resistance”.

Velayati told a group of Iraqi scholars on Wednesday, ‘If Syria is disintegrated and its government falls and the Takfiris — who are linked with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the US — dominate the country, this will adversely affect both Lebanon and Iraq.

The former Foreign Minister said the line of resistance starts from Iran and passes through Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine: “So you and us should be serious about what is happening in Syria because if the government and nation of Syria are defeated by the Takfiris, they will take the next step in Iraq and Iran will not remain immune of their aggressions.”

Velayati has been the Iranian regime’s leading official in its relations with Assad, repeatedly proclaiming that the demand for the President’s removal is a “red line” for Tehran. The declarations have been accompanied by a sharp escalation in the Islamic Republic’s involvement on the battlefield, with Iran leading ground offensives and suffering hundreds of casualties since last October.

See Iran Daily, May 14: Regime Promises Victory in Syria in “Near Future”

Judiciary to Investigate Rafsanjani’s Daughter Over Meeting with Baha’i Political Prisoner

Iran’s judiciary will investigate Faezeh Hashemi, the daughter of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, over her meeting last week with Baha’i political prisoner Fariba Kamalabadi.

Judiciary spokesman Gholam Mohsen Mohseni Ejei said that the gathering in Kamalabadi’s home, which included other former political detainees and women with uncovered heads, was “very disgusting and obscene” and that Hashemi’s refusal to apologize is “even worse”.

Iranian officials, including judiciary head Sadegh Larijani, have attacked Hashemi for days. In the face of the political pressure, Rafsanjani — an ally of President Rouhani and a long-time target of Iran’s hardliners — has condemned his daughter’s decision to see Kamalabadi.

Members of the Baha’i faith have been persecuted for decades by the Iranian regime, which sees the group as agents of the US and Israel. Kamalabadi is among Baha’i leaders given 10-year prison sentences. She was on a five-day furlough last week to see her family.

See Iran Feature: Rafsanjani’s Daughter Provokes Anger by Meeting Baha’i Political Prisoner