The CEO of Iran’s national oil company has said that oil exports have been increasing in recent months and Tehran has been able to repatriate the cash, despite sanctions.

Mohsen Khojastehmehr told Fars news website affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards that the government is trying to boost production to the pre-sanction levels until March, as stockpiles of exportable oil bi-products are dwindling.

Iran was producing 3.8 million barrels a day before the United States pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) in May 2018 and imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil exports. For a while Iran continued to produce more as its exports declined from 2.1 million barrels per day to around 200,000 in 2019 and excess inventories began building up by early 2020 and production had to be cut back.

Khojastemehr said that since August when hardliner president Ebrahin Raisi has assumed officie, oil exports have increased, and Tehran is receiving the money. “I cannot mention any numbers on exports, but I can say that the situation has improved,” he said. “Revenues from oil exports return to the country…We have a duty in the oil company to sell the oil and give the money to the central bank, which decides what to do with it,” Khpjastemehr added.

Iran’s oil exports began increasing in September 2020, before the presidential elections in the United States, reaching from 200,000 bpd to around 600,000 according to monitoring groups. The claim that exports increased further since Raisi took office and the proceeds received in cash cannot be verified.

Looking at Iran’s financial situation, with annual inflation holding at around 45 percent and a weak national currency that has fallen further since Raisi came to office, it is not clear if Tehran has been able to repatriate foreign currency generated by oil exports.

Iranian analysts have been saying that most illicit oil which is shipped to China is compensated for by Chinese goods through middlemen who reap huge profits.

A business representative, Masoud Daneshmand told Iran’s Labour News Agency (ILNA) on January 3 that Iran gives China oil and receives “inferior quality products”. The chairman of Iran-Switzerland Chamber of Commerce, Sharif Nezam-Mafi, on December 24 criticized the government's plans to increase barter transactions with other countries and pointed out that Iran needed technology which developed countries are not likely to transfer to Iran through barter.

But there is little doubt that in 2021 Iran increased its oil exports, as some believe the Biden Administration has stopped enforcing sanctions rigorously as it tries to restore the JCPOA and has said it is willing to lift most economic sanctions if Tehran stops the expansion of its nuclear program.

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