April 14, 2014 | Quote

Crude Business

The Obama administration may be betting that sanctions on Iranian oil exports force the country to make concessions over its nuclear program. But Iran is now exporting more oil than at any time since mid-2012, raising doubts about how effective that sanctions strategy has been.

Iran's crude oil exports jumped to 1.65 million barrels per day in February, thanks to increased purchases by China, India, and South Korea, according to revised data released Friday by the International Energy Agency. That is well above the informal cap of about 1 million barrels per day set by the administration as part of the limited sanctions relief given to Tehran during the six-month interim deal to hold nuclear negotiations.

The IEA said that preliminary data showed that Iran's oil exports dropped to about 1 million barrels a day in March, “but that figure will likely be revised upwards closer to February levels upon receipt of more complete data.” In other words, Iran's oil exports appear to have jumped and stayed consistently higher since the announcement late last year of the interim deal.

“This enhances Iranian nuclear negotiating leverage and makes it more difficult to conclude a diplomatic deal that dismantles Iran's military-nuclear program,” said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a group that advocates tougher sanctions on Iran. 

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