About Washington’s decision to end Exemptions: is the American-Iranian Zero Hour approaching?

About Washington’s decision to end Exemptions: is the American-Iranian Zero Hour approaching?

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A few hours after US President Donald Trump’s decision to start ending exemptions for Iranian oil buyers, Turkish Foreign Minister Mouloud Gawishoglu said the suspension of US exemptions from the Iranian oil import ban would not serve regional peace and stability. This comes in a tweet published by Gawishoglu on Twitter , commenting on the decision of Washington to end the exemptions on 8 countries from banning Iranian oil imports including Turkey , The Turkish minister stressed that the suspension of the exemption would harm the Iranian people, stressing that his country does not accept unilateral sanctions, and not dictates on how to establish relations with our neighbors .

While Gulf States welcomed the announcement of the sanctions imposed on Iran, renewing their position on the need to stop the activities of the Iranian regime threatening peace and stability. Saudi Arabia, through its Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, also welcomed the announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sanctions imposed on Iranian oil exports.

Al-Assaf expressed his full support for the step taken by the United States as a necessary step to compel the Iranian regime to stop its destabilizing policies, and its support and sponsorship of terrorism around the world. The Iranian regime has always used the resources of the Iranian state to finance these dangerous policies without paying any attention to the principles of International law , Al-Assaf stressed Riyadh’s position on the necessity of continuing the international efforts to compel the Iranian regime to abide by the principles of international law and stop its blatant interference in the internal affairs of other countries and its activities which have led to chaos and destruction for many countries.

Ibrahim al-Assaf confirms the statement of the engineer Khalid al-Falih, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, renewing his call for Riyadh to continue its well-established policy, which seeks to achieve stability in the markets at all times and not to break out of balance , and indicated that his country will cooperate with other oil producers, to ensure that sufficient supplies of oil are available to consumers and to seek the stability and growth of the global economy.

The Kingdom of Bahrain welcomed the announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sanctions imposed on Iranian oil exports in a necessary and important step that would support and strengthen the efforts aimed at drying up the sources of terrorism and confronting Iran’s dangerous role in destabilizing security and stability and supporting terrorist organizations and militias in the region.

Manama praised the great role and continuous efforts of the United States and the resolutions adopted by it in the face of various forms of violence, extremism and terrorism, as well as those who support and finance it, both regionally and internationally, reiterating its firm position that international efforts aimed at stopping the activities and policies of the Iranian regime that threaten security Peace and desist from its efforts to create chaos in the region and to compel it to respect the independence and sovereignty of States and non-interference in its internal affairs. According to information obtained by the Rawabet Center, Washington will extend to Iraq to buy Iranian gas until the end of this summer.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that his country will not extend any exemptions for sanctions on Iranian oil after the second of the next May , pointing out that the goal of his country for Iran’s oil revenues to be zero ,” The Secretary of State stressed , at a news conference in Washington , that “80% of Iran’s revenues are oil, and we have deprived the Iranian regime of (10) billion dollars at least, because of our decision not to renew exemptions on Iran’s oil sanctions.”

Pomeo said “The Iranian regime has continued to use the money it receives from the sale of oil to produce its ballistic missiles and to intervene in the affairs of states, not only in the region but also in other regions as Venezuela, and supporting the militias fighting in Yemen,” noting that exemptions granted to a number of countries will stop and «each country has to stop this import, because the matter is not worth the risk and expose itself to sanctions»,.

Pompeo added “By announcing the end of the exemptions, the United States is serious in exerting pressure on Iran,”. “The revision of these policies depends on the policies that the Iranian regime will follow and its political and regional behavior.” He stressed that the regime should sit down to the negotiating table.

Pompeo stressed that what the United States is doing also reflects the desire of the Iranian people, which demands that its regime stop its policies and pay attention to its interests, noting that “Washington warned Tehran that any attack on us would meet a strong response,” adding that he had no comment on the change of Guard Revolutionary commander , and that «discrimination in the presence of different currents within the system is not important, because its symbols, starting with President Ruwhani and Minister Zarif and others are not different and do not differ in the policies followed by Qassem Soleimani».

For his part, the US special envoy to Iran, Brian Hawk, said that Washington believes that sanctions on Iran make the Middle East safer, stressing that US actions seek to turn Iran into a normal state, stressing that Washington is taking strong steps until Iran stops its “expansion operations ».

For years, Turkey has been leading the world’s countries opposed to US sanctions against Iran, especially with regard to preventing Tehran from exporting energy for several reasons, notably Turkey’s reliance on Iran to meet its huge oil and natural gas needs.

Although Turkey was the top eight countries to have been granted an American exemption to allow it to continue importing oil and gas from Iran for a certain period, Ankara has long insisted it would not abide by sanctions at all even after the expiration of the US exemption period.
In a previous statement of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he said that his country would “absolutely not comply” with US sanctions against Iran even after the expiration of the US exemption period. He pointed out that his country “rejects sanctions, especially on oil matters which are indispensable,” adding that his country Imports gas from Iran and can not leave its citizens vulnerable to freezing in the cold winter in compliance with sanctions.

This Turkish ” decisive” refusal to comply with US sanctions on Iran stems from the extent to which Turkey relies heavily on Iran’s energy resources primarily to import oil and natural gas from Iran at a lower price than others for its proximity, despite the political and economic troubles that this position can cause. And to the level of oil and its derivatives, according to the official report of the State on the Turkish oil imports for 2017, which was called by «Al-Quds Al-Arabi», Iran tops the list of countries from which Turkey imports oil and its various derivatives and with a large difference from other countries.

The report shows that Turkey imported from Iran in 2017 about 11.5 billion tons of oil derivatives, and with regard to natural gas, according to the official reports of the State of 2017, which was seen by «Arab Jerusalem», Turkey depends mainly on securing its huge gas needs from Russia by up 52% while Iran comes second directly with up to 17%. Generally, Turkey is one of the most energy-importing countries in the world because of its lack of natural resources and large consumption. The importation of oil and gas from abroad is the biggest drain on the state treasury, which prompted Ankara to strengthen its efforts to search for natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean nevertheless, this will lead to confront with Greece as well as starting to build more than one nuclear power plant to reduce its dependence on the outside, in parallel with its efforts to boost its reliance on clean energy. According to previous figures, Iran is the first supplier of oil and the second natural gas to Turkey, which makes the possibility of Turkey’s abandonment of Iranian oil and gas is almost impossible, and can lead to a very severe shortage in the Turkish market.

In addition, it does not seem easy for Turkey to search for alternatives to Iranian gas and oil. The required quantity is large, while Russia and Georgia can fill part of Turkey’s gas needs. It is not known how Ankara can secure the 27 percent of the oil it imports from Iran from elsewhere without the need to extend new transmission lines, which requires years of planning and processing. In addition, the prices of Iranian oil and gas are better for Turkey in the region for proximity and short transit distance between the two countries, especially as this comes at a time when the Turkish currency lost about 40% of its value, which raised the bill of energy imports tremendously on the Turkish government which is imported in foreign currencies. Therefore, the Turkish economy is no longer able to bear any new rise in the costs of the energy import bill with the inflation rate reaching about 30%.

In addition, Turkey sees US sanctions as a prelude to a broader scheme to create chaos in Iran and sabotage its political system, which Turkey strongly opposes as a direct threat to its national security. Turkish writers say “Despite our vast differences with Iran, but Turkey will be the next goal ». The question arises in this context: Does Turkey stop buying Iranian oil?Turkey has been linked to strong economic relations with Iran in the past few years despite Western efforts to isolate Tehran over its nuclear program. However, the survival of these relations at the same pace facing the US continuous challenges and the last of which was Washington’s decision to end the exemptions on the purchase of Iranian oil, which raised questions about the implications of this resolution on Turkey, and how Ankara deals with the issue.

The leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, Rasul Tuson, is likely to say that Ankara will not stop buying Iranian oil in the near future, expressing his belief in the government’s intention to continue to buy it unless the United Nations supports or adopts the embargo imposed by the United States. Tuson added , a former parliamentary member , Ankara is getting it with a very good price from Iran, and from its point of view there is nothing illegal, we are paying through legal means, and if that is the case, why stop buying Iranian oil? “He stressed that” Iran is a good neighbor to Turkey, and we will not cut off our commercial ties with it because other countries asked us for this because of its nuclear program “.

The leader of the ruling party said his country would consider whether the United States would later impose serious sanctions on Turkey in this regard, noting that his government will work to convince US President Trump to get new exemptions after the expiration of the current exceptions in May. Tuson believes that if Washington insists on its position or is willing to sacrifice its relations with Ankara, Turkey will respond by turning to new markets, new partnerships and new alliances, adding that Ankara will eventually pursue its interests.

According to data from the Turkish Energy Market Regulatory Authority, Turkey needs Iran’s oil. The latter imports a large share of its oil and gas needs. In 2017, Iran became the first source of energy from which Turkey gets it accounting for 44.6 percent of total oil supply and 17% of total gas imports and Ankara depends on Iraq for the rest, Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia . The volume of trade exchange between Iran and Turkey in the past years has increased by more than 80%, and Iranian exports to Turkey include copper, aluminum, steel, zinc, oil derivatives, gas, watermelon and pistachios, while Turkey’s exports to Iran include grain, tobacco, industrial machinery, cotton, wood, medicines and paper. Economists expect China and Turkey to continue to buy the same quantities or more, despite earlier indications from Ankara that it may buy more Saudi oil.

For his part, Professor of International Relations at the University of “Najmuddin Erbakan” Gokhan Bozbash said , Washington is spreading chaos in the Middle East, and pursuing a policy far from the reality of the region, and the consequences will be shown after five or ten years, which will cause conflict in the region.. He added to Al-Jazeera Net, “Ankara can not accept the decision to stop the exemptions for the purchase of Iranian oil, which would ignite a conflict in the Middle East,” noting that the Turkish policy was and still prefers the diplomatic solution to any problem, and pointed out that Turkey has a share of Iranian gas like China and Greece and other countries against the background of agreements implemented from About 20 years and more.

Commenting on the Turkish foreign minister’s remarks, Buzbash said that this position is not new to Turkey, which is linked to extensive trade relations with Iran. Earlier, Turkey also refused to abide by US sanctions on Iran, pointing out that Ankara does not want to stop buying Iranian oil to avoid the current account deficit and the increase of Inflation and the decline of economic growth. He stressed that Trump should know that a decision like this is not related only to Ankara and Tehran but all countries are concerned. The US president must show his willingness to cooperate as Ankara’s cooperation with Washington on the issue of killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year. Buzbashi see that some countries such as Saudi Arabia and Emirate support Washington’s policy and this support complicate the problem.

The question is: how will Iran deal with stopping its oil supplies? Is Iran going to fuel the Iranian street against Washington and its allies after the suspension of the recent exemptions, and put the burden of the great economic distress on those that Iran is experiencing on these and those? In principle, it can be expected, but those who have been able to follow the revolutions of the Iranian people over the past months realize that they are more aware of the responsibility of the Iranian regime, which caused by its clumsy policies to bring hostility to the Iranian interior.

The slogans are no longer to fill the empty bellies are no longer worn on the Iranians. This is what the voice of the demonstrators high, who chanted slogans against the Lebanese Hezbollah, called for the fall of the Iranian regime. The Iranians are well aware of the size of the terrible spending, which Tehran supports militarily, regionally, not to mention the secret budgets of the IRGC, and wonder who is the most worthy of the money and what they have got from these empty banners since the era of Khomeini to Khamenei
When Iran loses 1 million barrels of oil per day, the event is a disaster, and its repercussions are inevitably catastrophic with the arrival of Iran’s oil meter abroad to zero. All attempts to circumvent sanctions will be limited, and the most exciting question arises: “what are they doing? Will they go in the way of rationality or are they prefer options of madness?

Before the answer perhaps we must read the implications of recent changes and developments related to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Khamenai has appointed a new commander of his Revolutionary Guard, – Brigadier General who is now Major General – Hussein Salami, a man who is famous of the forest of rockets and tunnels , the most eloquent compared to his predecessor Ali Jafari.

it is noted that the decree of Khamenai to appoint Salami that the first is stressing on the importance of expanding the ideological dimensions of the IRGC, as well as enhancing its multifaceted capabilities and the readiness of all its sectors … What about these sectors?

It is worth mentioning that the Revolutionary Guard has several basic sections: ground and naval forces, air and missile, and the Quds Force, the Basij forces, as well as economic and propaganda entities active in various areas in Iran … … Is Khamenei’s appointment of Salami means the Iranian readiness for military confrontation with America soon ?

When Hussein Salami comes to his post with the latest catastrophic sanctions, the memory immediately calls for threats from the man when he was Jaafari’s deputy to close the Strait of Hormuz, following an Iranian arrogance that it see if Tehran could not export its oil through the famous corridor, it will prevent the passage any oil to the outside world, perhaps referring to what Abu Firas al-Hamdani once said: “If I die because of thirst , there is no need for water drops .”

It is not clear enough whether Iran is going this time toward a policy of the edge of the abyss and then retreat as usual, or whether it is in the face of its failures towards its own people at home and the failures in the outside because of the inability to spend on its agents and the loss of their counterfeit revolutionary projects, it will prefer to stay in the hell where it will set fire to its wood with its hands in order to preserve its dogmatic vision, which it has defended for four decades and up to now, it is closer to the cry of the injured bird .

Between the removal of Mohammed Ali Jafari from the leadership of the Revolutionary Guard, and the US work to end exemptions that had been granted to eight countries that import oil and gas from Iran, and the leaks of a press about the possibility of an Israeli war against Lebanon this summer, the two parties are raise the possibility of direct or indirect confrontations between them, and it is not unlikely that one of them set the hour zero, after the parties entered the stage of preparation for it, where Tehran entrusted the task to the man who adopts the draft confrontation militarily and ideologically and promoted for it , while Washington lifted the severity of its economic blockade using the weapon of sanctions as Ameans to twist arms of Tehran after the decision to zero its oil exports , which was preceded by the decision to put «Revolutionary Guards» on the US list of terrorism weeks ago , in addition to tightening financial sanctions on «Hezbollah».

Between the denial of the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, quoted by the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai«opinion» of the words attributed to him expected war with the Hebrew entity, and the threat of the commander of the naval forces in the «Guard» to close the Strait of Hormuz if Iran is forbidden to use, and the talk of Russian relocation in Syria linked to Moscow’s Israeli priorities and the continuity of Tel Aviv to hit Iranian targets in Syria and the rejection of the Arab League at its emergency meeting any peace plan that does not abide by the resolutions of international legitimacy and the equation of “land for peace” and the draft of a two-state solution, and that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to consider : “Things are going from bad to worse , the region seems to have a pre-emptive war option that has become the only way to be out of the oscillation between non-war and no peace, and the direction towards a decisive decision, one of which is expected to set the hour of zero.

Iranian Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies