Iran’s oil minister says the new rounds of U.S. sanctions imposed on the country are markedly different than the previous round, but Iran is finding ways to circumvent them.
Describing the new rounds over the past six years as "smart sanctions," Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh told the Iranian Parliament’s official website on June 8 that “the U.S. has reached an 'evil maturity' in tightening the noose on Iran's economy."
The Americans want to block all of Iran's manoeuvres to sidestep sanctions, he said, adding that Tehran has found ways to get around them.
"We have unofficial or unconventional sales, all of which are secret, because if they were made known, America would have immediately blocked them," Namdar Zanganeh as said.
In the new rounds of sanctions, he said, Washington has added Iran's natural gas condensates to the list, while the sanctions on shipping and banking, compared with the last round, have intensified.
He also disclosed that although during his visit last year to Beijing, the speaker of parliament delivered a letter from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Chinese President Xi Jinping, China has not bought a drop of Iranian oil in the past month.
Although Russia and China have often attacked Washington's policy of sanctions and pressures against Iran, but they have taken no significant steps to help Tehran out of its economic misery.
Greece and Italy have stopped responding to the Iranian Oil Ministry’s phone calls, he said, as they are waiting to see whether they still qualify for any U.S. waiver.
"When all conventional channels for selling oil are blocked, selling through unconventional channels gets more difficult, as well," he said.
Washington has used maximum pressure on Tehran in recent months, publicly insisting that it aims to drive Iranian oil exports to zero and deprive Iran of assets used in supporting terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East.
Ship movement data and oil industry sources indicate little or no visible oil shipments from Iran in May, after the U.S. toughened its sanctions, cancelling previous exemptions for a handful of countries.
On June 7, the Trump administration hit Iran with new sanctions that target its largest petrochemical company for providing support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Earlier last month, Washington designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. Therefore, the U.S. can impose sanctions on any company or individual that provides the IRGC with material support.
In his interview with the parliament’s website, Khane-ye Mellat (Nation's House), Namdar Zanganeh also said that in the new way of selling oil, seven different officials, including one from the Oil Ministry, sign and endorse all transactions. During 2011-2016 when Iran sold oil through illicit channels, billions of dollars were embezzled by middlemen.
He declined to elaborate on the volume of Iran's oil exports, maintaining he would not disclose figures until the sanctions are lifted.
However, smuggled oil can never reach the volumes needed to replace legal oil exports as a serious source of income.