Report: Russia to use Iran to bypass sanctions and sell oil if nuclear deal clinched

Western diplomats tell Politico the countries are planning a ‘swap’ scheme, providing Tehran with Russian oil in exchange for Iran selling its own oil to Russia’s clients

The Iranian supertanker Grace 1 is seen off the coast of Gibraltar on August 15, 2019. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP)
The Iranian supertanker Grace 1 is seen off the coast of Gibraltar on August 15, 2019. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP)

If a nuclear deal is signed between Iran and Western powers, Russia is hoping to use a newly de-sanctioned Tehran to bypass sanctions on its own oil exports, Western diplomats said.

Both countries’ oil exports are under heavy sanctions: Iran due to its nuclear program and Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. But if Iran is able to agree with world powers on a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, its ability to sell oil would open up.

The diplomats told Politico on Tuesday that in such an eventuality, Russia and Iran are expected to enact a “swap” mechanism, whereby Tehran would buy Russian oil for internal use while exporting its own oil to clients on Russia’s behalf, providing Moscow with much-needed relief from biting sanctions.

“Iran is a good partner in this endeavor,” one diplomat said. “Russia has a difficulty and Iran has a capability.”

The report noted that Russia and Iran recently exchanged financial and trade delegations and asserted that they have been laying the groundwork for just such a scheme. It also said Western powers would be unlikely to punish Iran for helping Russia evade sanctions, as they would not want to endanger a freshly negotiated nuclear deal.

Sides to the 2015 nuclear deal appear increasingly close to clinching a return to the accord. The Biden administration and the European Union have been looking over Iran’s proposals for a return to the accord over the past week, with many of the reported obstacles reportedly removed.

File: A tanker seen anchored at the oil export terminal in the far eastern Russian port of Kozmino (AP Photo)

Iran signed its original nuclear deal in 2015 with the US, France, Germany, the UK, Russia, and China. The deal saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium under the watch of UN inspectors in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.

In 2018, then-US president Donald Trump pulled the US out of the accord and said he would negotiate a stronger deal, but that didn’t happen. Iran began breaking the deal’s terms a year later.

EU-coordinated negotiations on reviving the deal began in April 2021 before coming to a standstill in March and picking up again in August. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it believes diplomacy is the best way to resolve the crisis.

Israel is concerned about the ongoing talks aimed at reviving the deal, which it strongly opposes.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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