- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2018

A leading Iranian energy official recently accused Russia and Saudi Arabia of taking the world’s crude oil market “hostage” in reaction to the Trump administration’s effort to kill Tehran’s oil exports.

“Trump’s efforts to cut Iran’s access to the global crude market has prompted Russia and Saudi Arabia to take the market hostage,” Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, said on Saturday.

Earlier this month, when Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met in Tehran with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he asked Moscow to cooperate with Tehran and “restrain” the United States.

Ever since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the multilateral 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, Washington has reimposed financial sanctions on the Islamic Republic that have battered its economy and left its national currency at a historic low.

The situation is expected to grow even worse for Tehran’s hardline regime. In early November, more sanctions kick in that will penalize countries who buy Iranian oil by blocking their access to U.S. markets and financial institutions.

Washington’s goal is to reduce Tehran’s precious crude oil export to zero.

The developments have tightened world oil markets, which fear the loss of Iranian exports could send prices skyrocketing. Non-OPEC Russia, along with Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, however, say they can compensate for the loss of Iranian output.

Over the weekend, Mr. Ardebili told SHANA, the Iranian Oil Ministry news website, that Moscow and Riyadh were “embracing” the Trump administration’s sanctions and trying to push Tehran out of the global oil markets.

“Russia and Saudi Arabia claim to be seeking to balance the global oil market, but they are trying to take over a part of Iran’s share,” he said.

As Iran’s OPEC governor, Mr. Ardebili also criticized Iraq, OPEC members Kuwait and the United Arab Emirate for increasing their oil output, in addition to criticizing the overall syndicate (OPEC) for not protecting all its members.

“It is a fact that OPEC is losing its organizational character and is becoming a forum,” he was quoted as saying. “Simply said, nobody is afraid of a toothless lion that growls from time to time and does not harm anyone.”

• Dan Boylan can be reached at dboylan@washingtontimes.com.

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