Washington — US sanctions caused Iranian crude exports to fall to about 100,000 b/d in July, down from roughly 2.5 million b/d a year earlier, Brian Hook, the US Department of State's special representative for Iran, said Tuesday.
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"We have effectively zeroed out Iran's export of oil," Hook said during a press briefing in New York. "I can't overstate the significance of this accomplishment."
In July, Hook told S&P Global Platts that Iran's oil exports likely fell below 300,000 b/d in June. Hook said Tuesday that by zeroing out oil exports, the US is disrupting about $50 billion in annual revenue to the Iranian regime.
Hook's export estimates, however, are below those of most of the private sector, possibly due to the administration's opaque definition of exports.
According to data from S&P Global Platts' trade flow software, cFlow, shipments of Iranian oil fell to about 449,000 b/d in June from about 901,000 b/d in May. Initial data show Iranian oil exports averaged about 450,000 b/d in July. At the same time, the country's floating storage inventories have doubled since May, climbing from about 20 million barrels to 40 million barrels in just two months, according to estimates.
Getting an accurate estimate of Iran's crude and condensate exports is proving tricky as a number of Iran's state-owned oil tankers have recently turned off their satellite tracking systems, muddying the waters on where its oil is flowing.
Hook on Tuesday cautioned against assisting Iran in moving Iranian crude, which he said is being shipped to Syria, in violation of both US and EU sanctions.
"It you are a crew member or a captain on a vessel moving Iranian oil ... then you are subject to criminal and immigration consequences," Hook said. "As long as Iran is moving illicit oil around the world to fund its terrorist operations, it's important that we do something about it."
On Sunday, the tanker Grace 1, which has been renamed Adrian Darya-1, was released by Gibraltar, more than a month after it had been seized on suspicion of carry oil to Syria. A US request to seize the tanker was rejected by Gibraltar.
"It's unfortunate that that happened," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview with FOX News Monday. "These are oil profits that, when this is ultimately sold somewhere into the market, that will run back to the - Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian Qods Force, their elite forces that have sown terror and destruction and killed Americans all around the world."
Hook said the US continues to track the movement of the Adrian Darya-1.
The US has announced a maritime security partnership, aimed at improving security in the straits of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandeb. The UK and Bahrain have publicly joined that partnership.
"The world has a joint interest in promoting freedom of navigation," Hook said.
Pompeo is expected to discuss the partnership Tuesday afternoon in a speech before the United Nations Security Council.
Pompeo will likely try to boost international support for the partnership, said Henry Rome, an Iran analyst with the Eurasia Group.
"The US effort to get allies on board has been hampered by deep suspicions in Europe about US intentions and concern among Gulf states about getting in the way of a US-Iran shooting war," Rome said. "Moreover, the US is intentionally committing very few naval resources to the initiative, giving potential partner countries little incentive to join."
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