Donald Trump is targeting Iran’s oil, but U.S. sanctions alone might not be enough to shut down the Islamic Republic’s economic lifeline.
Discounts, bartering and smuggling — even disabling the tracking systems on its fleet of tankers — are among the tactics Iran may lean on to keep almost 800,000 barrels a day of its exports flowing after U.S. restrictions resume in November, Ellen Milligan writes.
The sanctions will still hit hard, but sales abroad at those levels would cushion the impact for a ruling establishment rocked by a sharp depreciation in its currency and bubbling discontent over rising prices.
China, Turkey and India will likely continue to buy Iran’s oil, while other major purchasers including Japan, South Korea and European nations are already shunning its crude.
Trump, meanwhile, is looking to inflict maximum pain on Tehran after pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May.
The president wants a total oil-export shutdown to force its leaders back to the negotiating table as he pursues a new accord that rolls back Iranian influence in the Middle East. That’s a cherished goal of America’s two biggest regional allies — Israel and Saudi Arabia.