Iran’s Presidential Advisor Says Oil Deals During Sanctions Were a Disgrace

Iran’s Presidential Advisor Says Oil Deals During Sanctions Were a DisgraceIran’s Presidential Advisor Says Oil Deals During Sanctions Were a Disgrace

Tehran's nuclear deal with the world powers undid an international sanctions regime that had allowed countries and individuals to pillage national resources and inflict harm on the  struggling economy, a top presidential aide said.

Ali Akbar Torkan, a senior advisor to President Hassan Rouhani and former minister of defense and roads, said in an interview with the government owned Persian-language newspaper 'Iran' that last year's nuclear agreement -- officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- which led to the lifting of most financial and trade restrictions against Tehran came at a high price.

The no-nonsense Torkan singled out Israel and Saudi Arabia as the biggest advocates of the tough restrictions on Iran, adding that the Saudis racked up billions of dollars by taking advantage of Iran's diminished role and influence in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

"Sanctions were a major economic gain for the Saudis, the least of which being Iran's shrunken share in the international market. But we tried and succeeded in restoring our rightful place in OPEC."

He recalled that other countries also benefited from the stringent sanctions that over the years undermined Iran's political and economic role in the region.

"Qatar, which shares the South Pars Gas Field with Iran, was a major beneficiary. Sanctions were like a shackle for us but Qatar raced ahead in developing the joint field. The United Arab Emirates and Turkey also profited by transferring (our) funds. Sanctions forced us to deal with and through middlemen and the cost was enormous."

  Trade With China, India

Torkan lamented Iran's "humiliating" trade relations with India and China, the biggest buyers of Iranian crude before the sanctions. The two major countries were among a handful of nations to receive temporary waivers for purchasing Iranian oil after the economic embargo was intensified in 2011 and 2012.

"During the sanctions, Europeans were not allowed to buy crude from Iran. As such, India and China became the top importers of Iranian oil at exceptionally low prices. They repaid Iran under humiliating terms and conditions," Torkan rued.

"The former administration sold China $22 billion worth of crude but Beijing deposited the money into a blocked bank account," he said referring to the government of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Beijing gave Iran a loan equivalent to the oil dues ($22 billion). But they deducted $4 billion in advance as interest for the loan and took another 8% of the total amount as collateral in case Tehran was unable to repay, the senior official was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

India, meanwhile, split its payments for Iranian oil sales into euro and rupee. He added that Tehran's access to euro-denominated oil receipts was blocked and New Delhi had then demanded that Tehran buy Indian goods at prices and conditions set by that country.

"Iran's wealth and national interest was plundered by a bunch of marauders from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, China and India," said the official in a rare public rebuke of India and China that ostensibly had thick relations with the Islamic Republic during bad times and remained "loyal" customers of Iranian crude oil.

  ISA Controversy

The veteran official warned that the extension of Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) by the US Congress could be used as a political springboard to sabotage a nuclear deal achieved after marathon negotiations.

"There are quarters that insistently cast the JCPOA as futile and a failure. The Iranian nation is understandably upset by the renewal of ISA. But this shouldn't lead to unraveling the nuclear accord by ourselves. Hostile powers are apparently enraged by the JCPOA and the removal of sanctions and will be happy to see the return of the sanctions … But they want this (killing JCPOA) to happen in a way that Tehran is introduced as the party in breach."

The US congress voted to extend the 20-year ISA earlier this month that restricts investments in the country's energy industry. Tehran says the decision is in violation of the nuclear deal.

Torkan recalled that the landmark nuclear accord eliminated many illegal "agents" in Iran's oil trade, namely the infamous billionaire Babak Zanjani who made astronomical sums from back door oil deals that were reportedly undertaken to beat the sanctions.

Zanjani, 42, is on death row after failing to repay $3 billion in oil receipts to the treasury during Ahmadinejad's controversial tenure that ended in the summer of 2013.


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