Monday, February 20, 2012

Iran Halts Oil Exports to Britain and France

This move is a major escalation of international tension, and despite Iran's minuscule shipments, the historical precedents of such embargoes indicate the initial steps to war.

At New York Times:
PARIS — Iran’s government on Sunday ordered a halt to oil exports to Britain and France, in what may be only an initial response to the European Union’s decision to cut off Iranian oil imports and freeze central bank assets beginning in July.

Britain and France depend little on Iranian oil, however, so their targeting may be a mostly symbolic act, a function of the strong positions the two nations have taken in trying to halt Iranian nuclear enrichment and to bring pressure to bear on Syria, one of Iran’s closest allies.

Iran may also be reluctant, when its economy has been damaged by existing sanctions, to deprive itself of revenues from its larger European customers. At the same time, it may be seeking to divide the 27-nation European Union between those who depend on Iranian oil and those who do not.

Sunday’s order, according to the Mehr News Agency in Tehran, came from the Iranian oil minister, Rostam Qassemi, who had warned this month that Iran would cut off oil exports to “hostile” European nations. On Sunday, the Oil Ministry spokesman, Ali Reza Nikzad-Rahbar, confirmed that shipments to Britain and France had been cut off, and said on the ministry Web site, “We have our own customers and have no problem to sell and export our crude oil to new customers.”

At the same time, according to the Mehr agency, an official at the Oil Ministry said Iran was seeking longer-term contracts of two to five years with other European nations.

There was no immediate reaction from French officials, and the British Foreign Office in London declined to comment. A British government official, demanding anonymity to describe internal discussions, said that “we’re not getting exercised about it,” noting that Iran provides “less than 1 percent of our imported crude oil.”
More at that top link.