US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran

Updated 15 October 2018
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US still aiming to cut Iran oil sales to zero: US envoy for Iran

  • Hook said Iran's ballistic missile activities need to be deterred.
  • An industry source and tanker data revealed that Turkey and Italy are the last buyers of Iranian crude outside China, India and the Middle East.

PARIS: The United States is still aiming to cut Iran's oil sales to zero and does not foresee the re-imposition of oil sanctions against Tehran on Nov. 4 as having a negative impact on the market as it is well-supplied and balanced, Washington's special envoy for Iran said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters in a conference call, Brian Hook also said Iran's ballistic missile activities need to be deterred and that European efforts to create a special purpose vehicle for trade with Tehran would find no demand as more than 100 foreign firms had indicated they would be leaving the country.

Hook's statements came as an industry source and tanker data revealed that Turkey and Italy are the last buyers of Iranian crude outside China, India and the Middle East, the latest sign that shipments are taking a major hit from looming US sanctions.
The Islamic Republic has exported 1.33 million barrels per day so far in October to India, China, Turkey and the Middle East, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. No vessels are shown heading to Europe with Iranian crude.
However, an industry source who also tracks the exports estimated shipments at 1.5 million bpd, including vessels which are not showing on AIS satellite tracking, of which a 1 million-barrel tanker is going to Italy.
That’s down from at least 2.5 million bpd in April, before President Donald Trump in May withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions. The figures also mark a further fall from 1.6 million bpd in September.
The expected loss of a sizeable amount of Iranian supply has helped drive a rally in oil prices, which on Oct. 3 hit their highest since late 2014 at $86.74 a barrel. Crude has since eased to $81 although analysts say the Iranian export drop remains supportive.
“It’s one of the reasons why prices are still above $80,” said Eugen Weinberg, analyst at Commerzbank.
The October figures add to signs that buyers are sufficiently wary of the US sanctions to stop or scale back their Iranian crude dealings, and that exports are falling more steeply than some in the market expected.
For sure, definitive export data is hard to uncover. Tanker schedules are often adjusted, exports vary week by week and the tracking of tankers, while easier than in the past due to satellite information, remains both art and science.
In the first week of October, Iran’s crude exports averaged 1.1 million bpd according to Refinitiv and less than 1 million bpd according to another industry source.
While Washington has said it wants to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero, Iran and Saudi Arabia say that is unlikely to happen. The Trump administration is considering waivers on sanctions for countries that are reducing their imports.
India, a major buyer, has ordered Iranian oil for November.
Iran, which has pledged to block any OPEC supply increase that the country deems to be against its interests, says it has found new buyers for its oil and its crude output has fallen only slightly.
For September, Iran told OPEC its crude output dropped by 50,000 bpd to 3.76 million bpd, while consultants and government agencies that OPEC uses to monitor production reported a larger fall to 3.45 million bpd.
Indeed, Iran may not yet have cut production to match the rate of decline in its exports, as the country appears to be storing more oil on ships, as it did during sanctions that applied until the 2015 nuclear deal.

 


Amnesty to expand probe of US-led campaign in Syria’s Raqqa

Updated 9 min 25 sec ago
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Amnesty to expand probe of US-led campaign in Syria’s Raqqa

  • UN estimates that more than 10,000 buildings were destroyed – or 80 percent of the city
  • Raqqa was the capital of the Daesh group’s self-styled caliphate

BEIRUT: Amnesty International said Wednesday it is enlisting the help of thousands of online activists to speed up its investigation into the US-led campaign that drove Daesh militants from their self-styled capital of Raqqa but left the Syrian city in ruins.
The London-based rights group said the new phase of its investigation enables thousands of online activists, using satellite imagery of the city, to map out the destruction over the four-month campaign, which ended in October 2017.
The UN estimates that more than 10,000 buildings were destroyed – or 80 percent of the city. Amnesty’s Strike Tracker campaign, in partnership with Airwars, would help narrow down when and where coalition air and artillery strikes destroyed buildings.
Amnesty hopes to compel the US-led coalition to accept greater responsibility for the destruction and conduct its own investigation into the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
The coalition says it worked to avoid civilian casualties in Raqqa. Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the coalition, said it is “always willing to review if new evidence is reported.”
In an earlier phase of Amnesty’s investigation inside Raqqa, the group provided new evidence that compelled the coalition to acknowledge 77 civilian deaths. In total, the coalition has acknowledged 104 civilian deaths from the hard-fought campaign.
“With bodies still being recovered from the wreckage and mass graves more than a year later, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Milena Marin, senior adviser on Amnesty’s Crisis Response team.
“There is a mountain of evidence left to sift through, and the scale of the civilian devastation is simply too large for us to do this alone.”
Some 2,500 bodies have been pulled from the rubble and uncovered in mass graves, and searches are still underway. Amnesty suspects hundreds of civilians died in the campaign.
Raqqa was the capital of the Daesh group’s self-styled caliphate, which once encompassed a third of Syria and Iraq. In recent years the group has been driven from virtually all the territory it once controlled, and holds just a few small, remote pockets in Syria.