In fact, Iran has exceeded the one million barrel per day limit every month since the deal went into effect. What’s more, the current decline is not due to Iranian attempts to come into compliance; it is circumstantial. Iran’s largest Asian trading partners, China and India, cut their orders for Iranian oil in June, thus bringing the nation’s total exports close to but not below the agreed-upon maximum.
Additionally, the agreement on that maximum was either short-lived or incomplete, in spite of it being written into an ostensibly binding document. At the beginning of May, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh explicitly rejected that provision, declaring that his nation would export oil at whatever levels it could manage. Thus, Iran continued to deliberately violate the agreement up to and including the month of June, at which point its export levels were constrained by outside factors.
Nevertheless, the US has either ignored or denied Iran’s failure to abide by its obligations in this respect. Spokespeople for the Obama administration have insisted that Iran would ultimately be shown to have average exports within the established limits for the entire interim period. They have maintained this point even when outside analysts reported last month that such compliance was now statistically impossible.
Faith in Iranian compliance has apparently relied in part on the interpretation of the agreement as excluding types of oil exports that are often included alongside ordinary crude, including condensates and gaseous types of oil, which are separated from heavier crude only after processing. Some analysts have noted that this distinction is fundamentally arbitrary and that it opens the door for manipulating the numbers in Iran’s favor.
But the latest figures seem to suggest once again that the number cannot be manipulated in Iran’s favor. And the foreign source of recent export reductions seems to support the notion that more than simply failing to comply with the established export limits, Iran is following its oil minister’s defiance and not even attempting compliance.