05 Aug 2019
China and other countries are receiving oil shipments from a larger number of Iranian tankers than was previously known, defying sanctions imposed by the United States to choke off Tehran’s main source of income, an investigation by The New York Times has found.
The Times examined the movements of more than 70 Iranian tankers since May 2, when the American sanctions took full effect.
Twelve of the tankers loaded oil after May 2 and delivered it to China or the Eastern Mediterranean, where the buyers may have included Syria or Turkey. Only some of those 12 tankers were previously known to have recently delivered Iranian oil, and an analyst said the scale of the shipments documented by The Times investigation is greater than what had been publicly known.
The continued flow of oil underscores the difficulty the Trump administration has had in using sanctions to bring Iranian oil exports to zero after breaking with allies and partners on Iran policy. The Obama administration had worked with China, Russia and three European allies on the 2015 agreement intended to restrict Iran’s ability to pursue a nuclear program. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal and to impose sanctions was opposed by those countries.
“You can’t make these kinds of threats if you can’t operationalize it,” said Richard Nephew, a scholar at Columbia University and a former White House and State Department official who helped enforce Iran sanctions during the Obama administration. President Barack Obama did not have a goal of bringing Iran’s oil exports to zero while pressuring Tehran to negotiate.
“It adds up to a decision that makes them look weak and feckless,” he added. “That shows there are limitations to U.S. power. China and other places are prepared to say, ‘No, we’re not going to follow the U.S. lead.’”
The Times reviewed data from MarineTraffic and Refinitiv, two ship-tracking services, as well as satellite imagery from Planet Labs and analysis from shipping and energy experts.
By Anjali Singhvi, Edward Wong and
Read more at The New York Times
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