However, that limit was supposed to come into effect in January and last through July 20, when the final nuclear agreement is due. Nevertheless, in February, Iranian oil exports averaged 1.65 million barrels per day, which was the highest figure since June 2012.
Reflecting more general Western optimism about Iran’s motives, the Obama administration announced that it believes Iran’s oil exports will decline enough in the next few months to show a six-month average that is within the 1 million barrel limit. In order to do so, its figures for May, June, and the first weeks of July will have to be approximately 80 percent lower than current exports.
Contrary to the Obama administration’s statement, there are other potential explanations for the falling exports, other than a deliberate shift in policy by Iran. Last Friday saw a doubling of gas prices across the country, which could suggest that domestic economic problems have necessitated that the Iranian oil industry boost the domestic supply of crude, at the expense of exports.
Another recent development that puts the new export figures into context is the fact that Iranian and Russian officials have been discussing energy exchange deals that could be lucrative for both countries in spite of Western restrictions. One proposed deal would be worth $20 billion and involve the export of 500,000 barrels per day from Iran to Russia. If this deal were to go into effect prior to the end of the interim deal with the West, those exports alone would account for well over half of what would be allowable under the terms of the agreement.