Iran minister to visit India, discuss tackling US curbs

Times of India – Iran will send its deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi for talks with New Delhi next week, as both countries try to find the best way of steering through the coming sanctions that will be imposed by the US from November 4.

Araqchi’s visit is significant since he is a point person for the JCPOA. His visit also comes after a senior Iranian diplomat earlier this week was quoted as threatening India with retaliatory measures if India reduced oil purchases.

India’s oil imports from Iran declined by 15.9 per cent in June, although after Tehran offered free shipping and extended credit period of 60 days, India has increased its oil intake from Iran to take advantage of the offer. But, this will diminish significantly is quite clear to both sides.

MEA officials called in the Iranian diplomat for a rare censure after his speech which was reported in the media, which he later said was misquoted.

However, India has taken to heart from remarks this week by US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. In an interview to a local media outlet, Pompeo appeared to indicate that some countries could get a waiver.

Pompeo said, “Come November 4, there will be US sanctions that prevent crude oil from passing from Iran to other countries. It will be sanctionable activity. We will enforce those sanctions. There will be a handful of countries that come to the United States and ask for relief from that.

That the Trump administration is more intent on stopping Iran is quite clear and sources said Washington would try to prevent Iran from diverting oil to consumers via Iraq among other similar moves. But, if the US gives India some waivers in return for “significant reductions” that still puts India in a bit of a tough spot, though it might save Chahbahar and the Central Asian connectivity corridor, something very close to Indian strategy.

Strangely, what might help Iran is the fact that there is actually a supply problem in the world right now — Venezuela is off the grid, as will Iran. US shale is being pumped out but poor pipeline infrastructure is proving to be a problem. Saudi Arabia has promised to pump an addition 2 million barrels a day, but energy experts believe it cannot be more than one million.

But, if Trump opens the spigots of the US strategic petroleum reserve, as he has promised before the US midterm elections, it will signal US seriousness against Iran as well as cool global oil prices. The US is believes to be talking to both Europe and Russia to tighten the noose around Iran.