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Moscow Contradicts Tehran, Highlighting Iran's Precarious Situation

Russian foreign minister Lavrov (R) and Khamenei's top adviser Velayati during their July 12 meeting in Moscow.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says he cannot confirm the recent comments made by the top aide of the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader that Russia will invest money in Iran.

Earlier, Ayatollah Khamenei’s advisor in international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati had announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin has plans for investment of up to $50 billion in Iran’s oil and gas sector.

Hours after Velayati touted the news, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that he cannot confirm the comments made by the Iranian envoy.

Meanwhile, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday, July 13, that a deal under which Russia would provide goods to Iran in exchange for oil is still possible.

Moscow is studying all legal issues related to the possible deal, Novak said.

"We are interested in Iran having the opportunity to buy Russian goods, work and services, to increase trade turnover and develop relations," Russian News Agency, TASS, cited Novak as saying.

The "oil-for-goods" program does not imply direct purchase of oil from Tehran by Moscow, the minister said. "This is not the purchase by Russia and not by Russian enterprises," Novak added.

A day earlier, the US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin had warned that Washington will impose sanctions against Russia, China, and the European Union if they continue buying oil from Tehran.

Novak’s comments were highlighting the fact that Russia would consider Washington’s concerns over Tehran-Moscow oil deals.

In May 2017, Iran and Russia reached an agreement to begin oil supplies under the oil-for-goods program established back in 2014, when the anti-Iran sanctions were still in effect. The volume of the deal was agreed to stand at 100,000 barrels a day.

Prior to the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Novak spoke of extending the agreement on Iranian oil supplies to Russia under the oil-for-goods program for another five years, TASS reported.

President Donald Trump dropped JCPOA or Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers on May 8, complaining that it was not tough enough to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and that Tehran was violating the "spirit" of the deal by continuing to test ballistic missiles and support extremists in the region.

Immediately after Washington’s withdrawal from JCPOA, a US official said that a new round of crushing sanctions would be imposed on Iran from Saturday, August 4, followed by sanctions on energy and banking, from November 4.

Furthermore, US State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook reiterated on May 18 that Washington’s goal “is to bring all necessary pressure to bear on Tehran to change its behavior and to pursue a new framework that can resolve our concerns."

"We very much want to be, to have, a kind of up-tempo diplomacy, one that's very focused and very determined to achieve our national security objectives. We need a new...framework that's going to address the totality of Iran threats," Hook added.

According to Hook, “More than fifty international enterprises, specifically the companies active in oil and energy market, have already decided to end all their deals with Tehran.”

Russia’s second largest petroleum company, Lukoil, was among corporations that nearly two months ago announced its decision to terminate its activities in Iran and avoid US sanctions.

Moreover, the International Energy Agency declared on Thursday that the volume of Iranian oil exported to Europe was halved in June compared with May.

Nonetheless, the Islamic Republic senior officials have repeatedly insisted that they are resolved not to lose their share in the global oil market.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s top advisor Velayati is travelling to Beijing as the Supreme Leader’s Special Envoy to pursue that policy, local media have reported.