Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo conveyed a message from US President Donald Trump to the Iranian leadership, asking the release of 5 US prisoners and inviting Iran to sit around a negotiation table, adding “he [Donald Trump] would be ready to suspend all sanctions only during the negotiations”. No guarantee was offered to freeze or revoke the sanctions. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rejected the message and any dialogue with the US President and told his guest that he considers Trump unworthy to “to exchange a message with”.
Informed sources close to Iranian decision makers repeated the words of President Hassan Rouhani and the Iranian advisor to Sayyed Khamenei for international affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, namely that “if Iran can’t export oil through the Persian Gulf, no-one in the Middle East will be able do this.”
The source “expects further attacks in the future, given the US decision to stop the flow of oil by all means at all costs. Thus, oil will stop being delivered to the world if Iran can’t export its two million barrels per day”.
Two tankers – Kokuka Courageous and Font Altair – were attacked in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday, putting at risk the supply of oil to the West and making oil tanker navigation in the Middle East very unsafe. “One more attack and insurance companies are expected to increase their fees. More attacks and no insurance company will agree to cover any oil tanker navigating in Gulf waters, putting Iran and other oil-exporters at the same level. Moreover, let us see what justifications Trump and Europe will offer their people when the price of oil becomes unaffordable,” said the source.
“Tensions in the Gulf can be eased only when sanctions are lifted on Iran. Otherwise, more objectives may be targeted and the level of tension will gradually increase. The US is selling weapons which are inadequate to protect oil tankers or to protect oil pipelines delivering oil to harbors. If Iran is in pain, the rest of the world will suffer equally,” said the source.
“The selling of oil was compared to a horde of wolves hunting together: when one is unable to hunt, others replace him. When Iran was under sanctions unable to sell its crude oil production daily, Saudi Arabia and Russia replaced Iran and increased their production and delivery. This is why Sayyed Ali Khamenei told the Iranian leadership to no longer consider any country as a durable friend and ally.”
Today, the Gulf of Oman has become the operational stage to attack oil tankers. The oil tankers suffered multiple attacks. Had the attackers aimed to sink the oil tankers, this would have created an ecological disaster in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Iran wants everybody to sit around the negotiation table, including the Gulf countries, but only once the sanctions are lifted.
“President Trump is betting on maintaining the status-quo. This doesn’t suit Iran, because its economy will suffer dearly. Binding the deep economic wound and holding on until Trump ends his first mandate is playing into Trump’s hand and this is not going to happen. The tension in the Gulf was generated when Trump decided to pull out of the nuclear deal (known as the JCPOA). Let him pay the price now. If Iran cannot export its crude oil it means the country must be ready for war,” continue the source.
Russia advised Iran to remain within the JCPOA and Iran promised to withdraw only gradually. The Iranian leadership believes Trump would like to see Iran pull out completely from the nuclear deal so he can accuse Tehran of moving towards a nuclear bomb.
It is a real war that is unfolding in the Middle East today, a war where oil tankers and oil delivery to the world (30% of world oil supply goes through the Gulf) are the targets. President Trump and his Middle East allies will have to bear the responsibility of the losses and the increase in the oil price worldwide due to attacks on oil tankers that are not likely to stop even in the face of US threats.
If Iran considers the sanctions detrimental to the survival of its population in the medium term, it means Iran is ready to go to war and accept the consequences. It is not possible to threaten a country that is already foundering economically. However, for Trump to lift sanctions would provide ammunition for the Democrats to attack Trump in his forthcoming campaign.
The other choice would be to lift sanctions and invite Iran to negotiate. And the last choice would be to challenge Iran, confront it and accept that the entire Middle East will go up in flames. After all, the Iranian leadership welcomed the US aircraft carrier coming to the Gulf and called it a “shooting gallery”. The ball is firmly in the United States’ court.