EU oil embargo on Iran takes effect. Gulf braced for backlash, Hormuz closure (DEBKAfile) Special Report 07/01/12 9:58 AM (GMT+02:00)
The European oil embargo taking effect Sunday, July 1 blocks the sale
to European Union members of 1 million, or one third, of Iran’s daily
output of 3.3 million barrels a day. EU insurance firms, the biggest
in the world, henceforth withhold cover from governments and firms
operating tankers which carry Iranian oil.
This sanction was threatened in January if diplomatic negotiations in
the interim failed to persuade Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil
producer, to halt work on developing a nuclear weapon.
Three rounds of talks by six world powers (US, Russia, UK, France,
China and Germany) with Iran have since ended in impasse. A fourth at
a technical level is scheduled for Tuesday, July 3, in Istanbul.
Braced against potential reprisals from Tehran, Saud Arabia and
fellow Gulf nations have placed their armies on alert. Completing a
deployment begun last Thursday for possible intervention in Syria,
Saudi Arabia has massed units on its borders with Jordan, Iraq and
Kuwait. The United Arab Emirates sea, air and special forces are on a
state of readiness, as are US Fifth Fleet vessels in Gulf waters.
While not anticipating full-scale war, they are acutely apprehensive
of possible Iranian strikes against Gulf oil fields, export
terminals, pipelines or tankers either by covert Al Qods Brigades
squads or local Shiite saboteurs.
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to treat an oil embargo as an act of
war and close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to Gulf shipping in
Two days before the oil embargo went into effect, Saudi Arabia and
the UAE activated two extra oil pipelines bypassing Hormuz and
providing alternative routes for their oil to continue to flow to
export markets if the Straits are blocked.
The Saudis repaired and enlarged the disused “Iraq Pipeline in Saudi
Arabia” –IPS, a 25-year old pipe running 750 kilometers from eastern
Saudi oil fields to the Yanbu refineries and export terminal complex
on the Red Sea. Riyadh is keeping its volume a trade secret. However
international oil experts estimate its capacity at around one-fifth
of the Saudi production of around 9.5 million bpd.
The UAE’s 380-kilometer long Habshan-Fujairah pipeline is brand new.
Operating from June, it is able to carry 1.5 million bpd of this
group’s total 2.5 million bpd output out to the Gulf of Oman port of
American and French forces went on standby at this port since
Saturday. Tehran could attack both of these pipelines as one form of
reprisal for the tough, new sanction.
Friday, June 29, a senior Revolutionary Guards Corp general announced
that missiles with a range of 300 kilometers were to be installed on
Iranian warships on duty in the vicinity of the Hormuz Straits.
DEBKAfile’s military sources are looking at next Tuesday, when
nuclear talks are due to resume at a technical level, as a critical
moment for a possible Iranian response to the oil embargo. Tehran
may make its attendance at the Istanbul meeting conditional on the
lifting of the oil embargo. This would effectively wind down the
international effort to reach a nuclear accommodation with Iran by
diplomacy and open the door to other options.
Iranian lawmakers Saturday dismissed the EU oil embargo as “very
little and insignificant” and declared that economic sanctions and
Western pressure would have “no effect on Iran’s determination on its
path toward development and progress.” The Iranian Majlis’ Economic
commission will announce its “scientific and pragmatic policies in
the coming days.” (Copyright 2000-2012 DEBKAfile. 07/01/12)
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