Earlier this week, Khamenei declared that the United States would not consider attacking Iran at any point in the near future, no matter what stance Iran commits to as negotiations go forward. While President Obama has specifically said that the US is leaving all options on the table, he has also made it clear in recent speeches that he prefers multilateral solutions and diplomatic approaches to problems like the one posed by Iran.
Now, in a statement that can be viewed as simultaneously backing up Obama’s diplomatic approach and responding to Khamenei’s rhetoric, the White House has declared that the latest assessments of worldwide oil demand suggest that there are enough oil supplies from other countries for Iran to be cut off from the world market.
White House: Iranian Oil Still Permitted
In spite of this claim, the Obama administration has also stated that it will continue to allow exceptions to its sanctions against Iran, for countries that depend upon the Islamic state heavily and will have a difficult time transitioning to reliance only on other sources. This latter announcement initially led to some media outlets mistakenly reporting that Iran and the United States had privately arrived at a bilateral agreement for six months of continued sanctions relief.
The announcement by the US raises some questions about exactly where the nation stands with respect to Iran at this moment in the process. It appears to be threatening the regime with very severe sanctions, while showing no particular commitment to instituting them if there is a possibility that negotiations can still be salvaged.
In the aftermath of a 35-nation board meeting at the UN, Israel reiterated its concerns that Iran is attempting to prolong negotiations and give the illusion of a viable deal. Reuters quotes Israeli Ambassador Merav Zafary-Odiz as asserting that Iran will continue to provide false explanations of such things as its exploding bridge wire tests, all while concealing the true nature of its actions. This claim is presumably based on Iran’s previous actions on the issue, as well as on evidence that the regime has been sanitizing the Parchin military site while denying inspectors access to it.
The Washington Times reports that a former Revolutionary Guard officer, now living in Europe, acknowledged witnessing detonator tests in 2007, which are connected to the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. The same article points out that the regime itself has admitted to certain detonator tests, though it also maintains that they were for civilian applications. The International Atomic Energy Agency reportedly possesses documents that contradict that claim.But whatever the specific details of the situation may be, it is clear that Iran has not yet been fully transparent. And thus it is plain to see where the suspicions of Israelis and others are coming from.
Several recent reports detail Iran’s progress in pursuing regional hegemony in the Middle East, and general economic and military strength through ties with other nations who have unfriendly or dubious relations with the West.
The Brookings Institution points out that in the first six months of the Rouhani presidency, Iran’s trade with China grew by 27 percent, to approximately 9.17 billion dollars. This has been met with a similar expansion in military relations and military-related trade. Last month, the US Treasury targeted several Chinese companies for sanctions enforcement because of their sale of ballistic missile components to Iran. Yet, not long after that, the Chinese defense minister issued a public statement expressing interest in coordinating with Iran for mutual defense.
Meeting with Turkey
It has been reported that Rouhani will soon visit Ankara to have diplomatic discussions with the government of Turkey, which is ostensibly a US partner but also a major source of trade and oil exports for Iran.
Turkey has been granted extensive exemptions from US-led sanctions because of the proportion of its oil imports that come from Iran. And even to the extent that sanctions have been enforced, Turkey has been among the nations that have helped Iran to evade them, particularly by purchasing oil with gold.
Rouhani’s visit will not mark the first expansion of relations between the two countries in recent memory. In January, when Iran’s interim nuclear deal was just going into effect with its promise of limited sanctions relief, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan visited Tehran and committed to doubling trade between the two countries, to a total of 30 billion dollars annually.