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Iran’s oil minister said that the country has skirted U.S. sanctions by exporting at least one million barrels of crude oil a day, according to regional media reports.
Iranian oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh dubbed U.S. economic sanctions on Iran ineffective during public remarks delivered on Monday and said that the country can be run solely from oil sales.
"We have learnt from the sanctions that we can run the country by exporting one million barrels of oil per day,” Zanganeh was quoted as saying on Monday during an Iranian economic conference, the country’s state run Fars News Agency reported.
If Tehran exports another 1.5 million barrels a day it will earn “an annual income of $54.5 billion which can result in more than $800 billion of more investment in the oil industry in the next several years,” according to Fars.
Iranian officials have downplayed the effectiveness of Western sanctions for months despite reports that Iran’s currency and economy are suffering under the economic pressure.
The managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said in August that Iran had “bypassed” oil embargoes and amassed some $1.8 trillion in oil reserves.
“Iran has been able to post a record in terms of the value of its oil discoveries despite the pressure from economic sanctions,” NIOC head Ahmad Qaleban said at the time.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that his regime would continue to counter sanctions as talks with the West progress.
“All meetings and discussions are aimed at protecting our nation’s rights,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by Iran’s state-run Press TV.
One former National Security Council official told the Washington Free Beacon that the United States must step up the pressure on Iran as it figures out more sophisticated ways to skirt the regulations.
“This is a great example of why it is important to keep increasing the economic pressure on Iran,” said the former official. “Sanctions are not a wall, but an obstacle course—eventually the Iranians find a way around them”
If the next round of nuclear talks fails to “produce real concessions from the Iranians, the U.S. should stop this piecemeal approach and take all of Iran's oil off the market for good,” said the former official.
Iranian oil exports to China reportedly hit a high in September when Tehran became the Asian country’s top oil supplier, according to Chinese customs data released by Fars.
Iranian oil ships brought 410,867 metric tons of oil to China in the month of September, according to the report.
“China imported 475,521 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian crude oil last month, registering a 24 percent rise compared to the same period last year,” Fars reported.
China has been Iran’s top oil importer for most of the year despite sanctions aimed at stopping these types of sales.
The Iranian oil ministry emphasized over the weekend that it is going forward with a $20 billion finance deal with China to develop petrochemicals, Fars reported.
Japan also has been one of Iran’s top oil clients even though it continues to promise the West that it is scaling back imports.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi suggested that progress in the nuclear negotiations could lead the United States to ease up sanctions on Iran’s oil exports.
“As a result of the negotiations with Group 5+1 [the five permanent United Nations Security Council members plus Germany], we hope that we can conclude these negotiations in such a way that the negotiations with Japan would expand much better than before,” Araqchi was quoted as saying over the weekend.
Japan imported around 120,000 barrels of oil from Iran in June, a marked decrease from past months, according to the report.
Tehran is hoping to increase its oil and gas production in the coming months.
As Western and Iranian negotiators gear up to meet again for talks in Geneva next month, there are signs that Iran is already getting some relief from sanctions.
The European Union will reportedly lift sanctions on Iran’s Bank Tejaret, according to the bank’s president.
“Fortunately, the EU has on its agenda the removal of its sanctions on Bank Tejarat and the bank’s branches in Paris, France, and Dushanbe, Tajikistan, stand atop the list of priorities,” Mohammad Reza Fallah, the managing director of Tejarat, recently announced.
India, Japan, and South Korea also continue to be Iran’s top oil importers, providing the regime an economic lifeline.
While some have warned that a full embargo on Iranian oil would lead to a massive spike in prices, various data studies have shown that this would not be the case.