Rouhani warns of ‘consequences’ to US push against buying Iranian oil

As State Department official says Washington working to reduce Tehran’s crude-oil revenue, Islamic Republic’s president says regional oil supply could be jeopardized

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, arrives at the Zurich airport, in Kloten, Switzerland, July 2, 2018. (KEYSTONE/Walter Bieri via AP)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, right, arrives at the Zurich airport, in Kloten, Switzerland, July 2, 2018. (KEYSTONE/Walter Bieri via AP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday that regional oil supply could be jeopardized if the United States manages to convince its allies to
stop buying Tehran’s oil.

Rouhani spoke to Iranian expatriates in Switzerland during his visit there on Monday. He said the US has threatened not to allow Iran to continue exporting its oil. Iranian state TV broadcast his remarks.

“It would be meaningless that Iran cannot export its oil while others in the region can. Do this if you can and see the consequences,” he said according to an English-language report of his statements provided by Iran’s Press TV.

Rouhani didn’t elaborate but when pressured in the past, Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz through which one third of the world’s oil supply passes.

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Iran is OPEC’s second-largest crude exporter with more than 2 million barrels a day.

Since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Washington has been pushing allies to cut oil imports from the Islamic Republic altogether by November.

An Iranian navy vessel during a drill in the Strait of Hormuz (YouTube screenshot)

Rouhani asserted that Iran will not buckle under US pressure and urged dialogue to resolve the differences between the nations.

“Iran’s logic has not changed, one party without logic has left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the goal of putting pressure on the Iranian nation,” Rouhani said.

“We told all our foreign parties that if they speak to the Iranian nation with the language of logic and respect, then we can get problems solved… and that threats, pressure and humiliation will never work against the people of Iran,” he said.

Also Monday, a senior Iranian military commander said that Iran will respond to any threat against the nation. Speaking at a meeting of senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders in Tehran, Major General Gholam Ali Rashid urged social and political unity in facing up to the United States, Press TV reported.

Rouhani’s comments came after the Trump administration vowed Monday to stick with its pressure campaign against Iran, affirming its strategy to change Tehran’s behavior by gutting its oil revenue and isolating the country globally.

“Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue on crude-oil sales,” said Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, at a briefing with reporters.

He also suggested, however, that there would be some legroom with other countries that import Iranian oil from avoiding immediate sanctions, once they are set to be re-imposed come November 4.

“We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis, but as with our other sanctions, we are not looking to grant waivers or licenses,” Hook said, in comments that were seen as a softening of the United States’ prior demands.

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press after announcing his decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran during a speech from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House on May 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

These moves follow US President Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, which removed sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

The accord, forged during the Obama administration, is still being honored by the other signatories — Russia, Germany, France, the UK and China.

Despite the space Washington is prepared to grant these and other nations working with Iran, Hook insisted the Trump administration would not provide exemptions and was intent with fully charging forward with its current plan.

Notable countries that import Iranian crude include Turkey, India, China and South Korea.

Since a US State Department official first told reporters on June 26 that the US was preparing to ask allies to cut their oil imports from Iran, the US market took a hit, with US crude jumping more than 8 percent.

Trump subsequently expressed concern about oil prices last week, announcing in a tweet that he and King Salman of Saudi Arabia had agreed to raise daily oil production by 2 million barrels.

“Prices [too] high!” he said. “He has agreed!” It is not clear when that agreement will begin implementation.

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