Speaking at the International Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Refining Exhibition, Zanganeh placed considerable emphasis on the role of domestic companies in Iran’s industries, despite speaking to a crowd that included representatives of over 600 foreign firms. This is in addition to a series of recent announcements and meetings in which the Iranian government signaled either plans or a general willingness to expand energy-based trading relations with nearby countries including Turkmenistan, Armenia, Kuwait, and Pakistan.
Talks with officials from these nations have reportedly focused on the prospect of bartering gas or oil for import goods – transactions which would help both parties to avoid Western-imposed restrictions while circumventing the US dollar as the international reserve currency.
Zanganeh’s speech may be seen as explaining the nature of these talks. AFP reports that he explained his own approach towards the development of Iranian oil and gas industries as being based on the assumption that sanctions will not be lifted. This strategy would certainly be supported by developing relationships of barter with geographically and ideologically close partners, including the high-demand energy markets of China and Russia.
If the Iranian Oil Minister has been planning his industries on the assumption of a breakdown of diplomatic relations between Iran and the West, it raises questions about the extent of Iran’s motivation for negotiating in good faith as the P5+1 group of negotiators pursues an agreement on the nuclear program before their July deadline.
If the Iranian economy is truly seen as being capable of survival in spite of Western sanctions, the regime may have cause to walk away from the talks without fulfilling its responsibilities, especially if sanctions appear to be the only compulsive tool that the US and Europe are willing to use.
With his comments on Tuesday, Zanganeh joins a growing list of officials in Iran and elsewhere in Asia, who seem ready to bet against the success of a nuclear agreement. Also on Tuesday, Revolutionary Guard Admiral Ali Fadavi was quoted by Fars News Agency as saying that his forces are prepared to attack US aircraft carriers in the event of war. And on Monday, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan expressed interest in close military ties with Iran, despite having formerly complied with some Western sanctions against the Islamic theocracy.