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‘Savior of Tehran’: China Props Up Tehran With Major Oil Purchases

Iran sold China $38 billion in oil since Biden took office

Chinese president Xi Jinping / Getty Images
• September 27, 2022 2:25 pm

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Iran has illicitly sold China $38 billion worth of oil since President Joe Biden took office and relaxed sanctions enforcement on Tehran. Revenue from the Chinese has kept Iran's hardline regime afloat as it grapples with the largest outbreak of nationwide protests in years.

China "has proven to be the savior of Tehran by continuing to import millions of barrels of oil every single day," according to newly released figures calculated by United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), an advocacy group that tracks Iran’s illicit oil trade. "Chinese imports have likely even exceeded the purchases made when the trade was not subject to U.S. sanctions." Iran's oil trade is heavily sanctioned by the United States as part of measures aimed at curbing the hardline regime's revenue sources.

"It is widely acknowledged," according to UANI, "that China is principally responsible for keeping the Iranian regime in business through oil purchases that have totaled $38 billion since President Joe Biden assumed office." Entities found to be complicit in violating sanctions can face huge fines and be iced out of the U.S. financial system.

While the Biden administration has not nixed U.S. sanctions on Iran’s lucrative oil trade, it has eased its enforcement of these measures, according to experts tracking the situation. This has allowed Iran to export around 1,000,000 barrels of crude per day to Beijing amid a global supply crisis and enriched Tehran’s hardline regime at a time when its grip on power is more threatened than ever.

Protests have erupted across Iran since the regime’s morality police beat and killed a 22-year-old woman for not properly wearing her head covering, which is required under Iran’s theocratic legal system. Since her death, men and woman have taken to the streets across the country to express outrage at the regime’s human rights crimes, as well as its mismanagement of the country’s economy, which remains in shambles.

The Biden administration has offered tepid support for the anti-regime protests, but continues to walk a diplomatic tightrope as it engages in talks with the hardline government over a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear accord. These talks, and the lax enforcement of sanctions that have sent Iran’s oil revenues skyrocketing, is helping to keep the regime in power amid the protests.

"Protests are occurring all over Iran, some of the most serious in years," UANI chief of staff Claire Jungman told the Washington Free Beacon. "Men and women are joining the demonstrations denouncing a regime they see as repressive and the cause for isolating the country, inflation soaring, and rampant poverty."

"All of this," Jungman explained, "has occurred under the current administration’s lax sanctions enforcement policy, which has enabled the regime to export millions of barrels of Iranian oil and accumulate billions in revenue from these sales. It is clear that only the regime is profiting while the Iranian people continue to suffer."

Before the Biden administration took office and reentered talks with Iran, China was importing around 400,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day. That number now stands at around one million.

UANI analysts have discovered that Iran is using a so-called Ghost Armada comprising more than 200 oil-carrying ships. Much of this trade is being facilitated by China, which is able to import the illicit Iranian oil at discount prices.

Published under: China, Iran, Iran Nuclear Deal, Oil, Sanctions