A crew member raises the Iranian flag on the renamed supertanker Adrian Darya 1, Gibraltar, August 18, 2019 (Jon Nazca/Reuters)

Iran President Hassan Rouhani’s Chief of Staff claims that Iehran is mysteriously selling its oil, evading US sanctions which have added to the Islamic Republic’s economic problems.

Iran’s official oil exports have been reduced by at least 80% and up to 95%, from the April 2018 level of 2.5 million barrels per day, by the comprehensive US restrictions levied last November.

But Mahmoud Vaezi said in a speech on Thursday, “Enemies tried to prevent Iran from selling its oil, but we continue to do that, and they still don’t know how.”

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank also appear to be unaware. The IMF forecast on Tuesday that Iran’s economy will contract by 9.5% this year, while the World Bank is projecting an 8.7% fall in GDP.

Iran Daily, Oct 16: Economy to Shrink Almost 10% This Year — IMF

Iran is suffering from issues with productivity, investment, trade, employment, and a weakened currency. Vaezi acknowledged, “Some people in middle and lower classes face economic problems”; however, he maintained, “These difficulties are less serious than what the enemy had predicted.”

He said that the sign of Iran’s power was that “leaders of many countries were coming to meet the President at the UN” last month “because of the respect Iran enjoys”, and that 3 million Iranians visited Iraq for the Arba’een pilgrimage.

Analysts have said that Iran is moving oil on the gray markets, by having tankers turn off GPS transponders to avoid tracking. The level of evasion is unknown, but some observers say it could be up to 400,000 barrels per day.

The US tightened sanctions in May by ending waivers for Iran’s top oil customers such as China, South Korea, India, Turkey, and Japan.

Last week Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh conceded that US sanctions have restricted Tehran’s exports, while maintaining that the country will withstand the economic pressure:

We have to resist and not allow a handful of people to usurp the rights of the Iranian nation and put us under pressure. We have all learned how to resist during difficult conditions.

Iran Daily, Oct 9: Oil Minister Concedes Effect of US Sanctions