Iran claims to have exported $7 billion in gas products over the past year to several European nations despite an international regime of economic sanctions aimed at crippling Iran’s lucrative energy sector.
The exports come as Europe and the United States have pushed to choke off Tehran’s market access. The ongoing exports, however, indicate that many loopholes continue to exist in the current laws.
Iran’s top gas clients include Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey, and Romania, according to Iran’s state run Mehr News Agency.
"Despite EU sanctions banning the importation of natural gas and other gas liquid products to Europe, Iran have exported more than $7 billion of liquid gas products," Mehr reported Thursday.
Iran’s claim to have continued access to international markets is being viewed with concern by many on Capitol Hill who have pushed for robust sanctions.
"If this is true, it really puts the lie to the idea that it is an isolated country feeling the impact of economic sanctions," said one senior congressional aide who has worked to boost sanctions on Iran.
Tehran maintains it has continued gas exports to a laundry list of countries that include "China, Japan, United Arabic Emirates, India, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Turkey, Romania, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Afghanistan," according to the report.
Iran has also exported around $12.9 billion worth of petrochemicals, according to the report.
"More than 15 million tons of petrochemical and polymer products, including light and heavy polyethylene, benzene, and liquid gas have been exported from Assaluyeh terminals worth $12,856 million to international markets," the report states.
South Korea has also boosted its purchases of Iranian liquid gas, according to Mehr.
The reported exports to Afghanistan and Turkey are of particular concern to observers.
The State Department admitted last month that it was not certain if it helped Afghanistan spend millions of United States taxpayer dollars on oil purchases from Iran.
House lawmakers and oversight officials in Afghanistan have demanded that the State Department release detailed financial records regarding the possible sales.
Iran’s claim to have sold gas to Afghanistan could be a sign that U.S. money may in fact have been spent on these sanctioned imports.
Turkey has also emerged as one of Tehran’s chief financial boosters.
Halkbank, a Turkish lender that is majority state-owned, has been criticized by Western officials for engaging in oil-for-gold exchanges with Iran. It is suspected that some 60 tons of gold may have been traded to Iran for oil.
Recent reports indicate that Turkey may now be gearing up to trade ships to Iran for oil.