Iran’s president vows oil exports to continue despite US pressure

Rouhani also says main export terminal to move from Gulf to Oman Sea, allowing shipments to go on if key waterway blocked

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the Iranian Parliament in the capital Tehran on August 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks at the Iranian Parliament in the capital Tehran on August 28, 2018. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that Iran will continue exporting crude oil despite US efforts to stop it through sanctions.

“We will continue by all means to both produce and export” oil, Rouhani said in remarks broadcast on state TV. “Oil is in the frontline of confrontation and resistance.”

The US wants to reduce Iran’s oil exports effectively to zero with renewed sanctions in November, after pulling out of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May.

It’s unclear, however, how much other countries will cut back on Iranian oil imports. Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, which also signed the nuclear deal, opposed the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from it. European countries are trying to salvage the landmark accord.

Rouhani also said Iran is to move its main oil export terminal from the Gulf to the Oman Sea, sparing its tankers from using the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

This photo from March 12, 2017, shows a an Iranian oil facility on Kharg Island, on the shore of the Gulf. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Rouhani said exports were already being shifted from the Kharg Island terminal, deep in the Gulf, to Bandar-e-Jask in the Oman Sea and would be completed by the end of his term in 2021.

“This is very important for me, it is a very strategic issue for me. A major part of our oil sales must move from Kharg to Jask,” Rouhani said in the speech as he inaugurated three new petrochemical plants in the southern energy hub of Asaluyeh.

To reach the oil terminal on Kharg Island, tankers must currently pass through the narrow Strait of Hormuz, slowing down deliveries.

Iran has in the past repeatedly threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz — which is used by its Gulf rivals including Saudi Arabia — when faced with sanctions on its oil exports and possible military action by the US.

The latest threat was in July when Rouhani said Iran has always guaranteed the security of the strait but warned the US “should not play with the lion’s tail.”

Moving its terminal to the Oman Sea would in theory allow Iran to continue exporting oil even if the strait was closed.

Illustrative: The Iranian warship Alborz, foreground, prepares to leave Iran’s waters at the Strait of Hormuz, in this photo released by the semi-official Fars News Agency, Tuesday, April 7, 2015. (AP/Fars News Agency, Mahdi Marizad)

The last time there was a major disruption in the flow of oil through Hormuz was in 1984 during the Iran-Iraq war when both sides attacked each other’s oil facilities and tankers.

The strait is the world’s most important oil chokepoint with roughly 35 percent of all seaborne oil passing through it, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Bloomberg reported that Iran exported 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in August, but analysts say US sanctions could reduce sales to around 1 million bpd.

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