Iran Oil Minister Says ‘Security, Outside Forces’ Help Evade Sanctions
Addressing an open session of Parliament on Tuesday September 15, Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh said the ministry had sought help from “security and outside forces” to export crude oil in defiance of United States sanctions.
“We have asked for help from anyone that could assist [in selling crude],” Zanganeh told lawmakers, according to parliamentary news website Khaneh Mellat and added: “We sought the assistance of security and outside [foreign] forces and we hope the Parliament will assist us by using the potential of inter-parliamentary diplomacy.”
The Oil Minister did not clarify his reference to “security and outside forces” although his reference to “inter-parliamentary relations” suggests he wants to encourage links at an official level. His reference to ‘security forces’ will be taken as a reference particularly to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), which has an extensive economic role.
Some news agencies, including the judiciary’s official news agency Mizan Online, reported Zanganeh as saying: “We sought the assistance of anyone who could help, including headquarters, and security and outside forces.”
This may refer to Khatam ol-Anbia Construction, the major engineering conglomerate controlled by the IRGC, which is often referred to as
‘Headquarters’. Khatam ol-Anbia is currently implementing nearly 300 gas and oil projects across the country, including some refineries.
The US Treasury has, however, designated a number of entities – including six earlier this month in Iran, China and the UAE – for involvement in sales of Iranian petrochemicals. On September 4, the Treasury designated “a vast Iranian petroleum shipping network” that it said was directed by and financially supported the IRGC and its overseas arm, the Qods Force.
“Over the past year, the IRGC-QF has moved oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars or more through this network for the benefit of the brutal Assad regime, Hizballah, and other illicit actors,” the Treasury's statement said, explaining that the network consisted of dozens of ship managers, vessels and facilitators working under the supervision of senior IRGC-Qods Force official and former Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi.
Zanganeh on Tuesday also told the Parliament that the ministry welcomed all suggestions for facilitating oil exports, including barter, and that other methods to allow exports “through any capillaries possible” need to be devised.
According to the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), revenue from oil exports dropped from over $60 billion in the twelve months to March 20, 2019 to $29 billion in the twelve months to March 2020. Official figures on volumes of oil exported have been withheld since 2018 and the current level of Iran’s exports is not officially announced. However, officials in the past few months have spoken of less than $10 billion in oil sales this year.
The US reimposed sanctions against Iran in May 2018 and in May 2019 revoked the sanctions waivers it had issued for eight of the largest buyers of Iranian crude oil – including China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey - in a bid to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero.
Iran also devised many schemes to circumvent international sanctions imposed in 2011 by recruiting businessmen, officials and IRGC networks to clandestinely market the crude. The result was major corruption schemes which were revealed after Iran the sanctions ended in 2016. Billions of dollars in oil and petrochemical sales were fully or partially misappropriated.