In unprecedented remarks, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, the Vice President of Iran and Head of the Budget and Planning Organization, lamented that "Tehran cannot sell even a drop of oil."
Speaking at a meeting in the Hamedan Province of Iran, the Iranian government's official news agency, IRNA, quoted Nobakht on Thursday as saying, "Everyone, especially the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, knows that we have a tough year ahead."
Referring to the Americans as "executioners devoid of justice," Nobakht continued, "The most severe stage of the (U.S.) sanctions was oil for food, but now we are in a situation where these 'unjust hangmen' do not even allow us to sell a drop of oil to buy food and medicine."
Furthermore, Nobakht complained that even when oil is sold, Tehran cannot make the relevant financial transaction and receive its money.
However, as Nobakht asserted listeners, "We must send a message to the enemy [US] that the harder sanctions make us more resilient and active in running the country under cruel sanctions despite all the hardships."
After establishing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015 nuclear deal alongside other world powers, the U.S. withdrew from the agreement in 2018, and devastating economic sanctions were subsequently reimposed on Iran.
The White House also suspended oil waivers in May 2019, threatening Iranian oil buyers with severe punishments.
Nevertheless, Radio Farda's data provided by an international data intelligence company, Kpler, shows that Iran still sells crude oil in a limited way and through covert means. So far, no report has been published on how Tehran has managed to receive money for its crude.oil sales.
Based on IRNA's report, Nobakht cited Khamenei's prediction that 2020 will see a '"jump in [domestic] production," saying, "we will mutate the national production regardless of the sanctions."
Nobakht's claim runs counter to the fact that Iran's economic growth is negative for the third consecutive year. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran's GDP this year compared with the previous year will decrease by about eighteen percent.
Data provided by the Statistics Center of Iran (SCI) also show that the country's GDP in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the same period last year, shrunk 3.5 percent.
The decline in Iran's oil production has been called the most significant factor in the sharp decline in Iran's GDP.
The added value of Iran's oil and gas production in 2019's second quarter decreased by 35% and in 2020 again production numbers dipped again, about 15 percent. Oher sectors of the Iranian economy, including the service sector with a share of almost 50 percent in the total Iranian economy, also faced negative growth in 2020's second quarter, declining 3.5 percent.
OPEC statistics show that Iran's oil production halved to 1.9 million barrels per day (BPD) following the U.S. sanctions in 2018.
Kpler also told Radio Farda on September 2 that the average Iranian oil export in the first eight months of the current year was 287,000 BPD. Iran's oil exports before the U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic were 2.5 million BPD, almost nine times more than the current volume.
China and Syria are the only countries openly buying Iranian oil, though international oil tanker-tracker companies say that Iran sells its oil clandestinely under other countries' names, including Malaysia and Indonesia. It remains unclear how Iran is reimbursed for the deals, considering international banks diligently block any payments to Iran for the fear of being punished by the United States for violating the sanctions.
OPEC estimated Iran's crude and oil products export revenues totaled about $18 billion last year, compared to $60 billion in 2018.
Iran's economy is already under severe pressure by U.S. economic sanctions, which have stopped Iran's oil exports and other trade relations. On Friday, August 7, Mohammad-Baqer Nobakht admitted in the second quarter of 2020, only six percent of predicted revenues from the sale of oil materialized.