Iranian oil tanker Arc 1. Photo undated

Iranian oil tanker Arc 1. Photo undated

IRGC-Linked Website Claims Iran Exporting A Lot Of Oil To China

Wednesday, 08/10/2022

Author: Mardo Soghom

Iran’s IRGC-affiliated Fars news website has lashed out at Tehran chamber of commerce for “under-reporting” oil exports to China that hardliners take credit for.

The chamber of commerce regularly published trade statistics, but Fars angry at the low figure cited in the latest report asks why the organization is allowed to even speak about oil exports to China.

The figures published by the chamber of commerce show just $350 million in crude shipments to China through the end of May this year. Fars says why the chamber of commerce does not look at information from international sources that show hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil being shipped.

The answer should be obvious for anyone familiar with the issue. Tehran Chamber of Commerce has used official figures from Chinese customs, not estimates of illicitly shipped oil. China reports a fraction of the Iranian oil it buys. Most of its unreported imports come from brokers, who often mix the crude with cargos from other countries, falsify documents and hide the origin of the oil.

It is not clear if Fars was not aware of this or simply wanted to put pressure on everyone to say that the hardliner government in Tehran has been successful in boosting oil exports.

After the United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed sanctions on Iran, China never stopped buying Tehran’s oil, but quantities in question were negligible until the end of 2020. At that time, the newly elected US president Joe Biden announced that he intended to return to the nuclear deal with Iran known as JCPOA. Soon followed the start of talks with Iran in Vienna and Chinese imports of Iranian oil took off.

The Biden administration apparently either did not want to enforce the sanctions while nuclear talks were taking place, or simply could not stand up to China.

By the beginning of 2022, Iran was selling at least 750,000 barrels of crude per day, mostly to China, according to multiple industry sources monitoring shipments. But official Chinese figures show an average of just 22,000 barrels being imported from Iran, and that is what the chamber of commerce has reported.

Although Iran keeps the quantities and destinations of its oil exports confidential, Fars, which often speaks for the Revolutionary Guard, said that China “is the main buyer of Iran’s oil during sanctions.”

One possible reason for the sensitivity shown by Fars to the issue could be reports in May and June saying that cheaper Russian oil has been competing with Iranian exports to China. Some sources said that in May Iran’s shipments halved as Russia offered larger discounts to China after international sanctions on its oil exports.

The hardliner government in Tehran confronting the worst economic crisis in the 43-year history of the Islamic Republic, keeps highlighting its success in selling more oil despite US sanctions. The claim seems to be true, but the economic situation remains dire because China does not pay much cash and sends goods that does not help the government’s cashflow problem.

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