Russia is decidedly opposed to escalating sanctions against Iran on its oil industry, even as the West is discussing additional steps against Tehran over its nuclear program. Europe is considering restrictions against imports of Iran’s crude oil and the United States continues to encourage nations to scale back their purchases of Iranian oil. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov came out on Wednesday against sanctions on Iranian crude, accusing proponents of the step of seeking popular unrest in the Islamic Republic.
In comments published by RIA Novosti, Lavrov said such moves would harm Iranian citizens and actually disrupt efforts to restart negotiations between Iran and the international community.
“This has nothing to do with a desire to strengthen nuclear non-proliferation,” he said of oil sanctions being considered by the EU. “It’s aimed at stifling the Iranian economy and the population in the apparent hope of provoking discontent.”
US spokesperson Victoria Nuland instead said Iranian oil restrictions are focused on convincing the Islamic Republic to heed the international community over its nuclear program.
“Our concern is that the money that the Iranian regime gains from the export of crude is fueling its nuclear program,” Nuland told reporters on Wednesday in comments released by the State Department, “and that we really need to get the regime’s attention, and that it is important to get it where it bites, and that is with regard to the crude.”
Nuland said they have been going to a number of other nations to try and convince them to cut back on their imports of Iranian crude in a “in a phased and managed way so that we don’t have economic backlash on those countries, so that we don’t unduly destabilize markets.” She said they also have been talking to suppliers about replacing a cutback in Iranian crude.
“We do think that these consultations are bearing fruit,” said Nuland of the discussions on scaling back Iranian oil imports. “We also see that Iran is already feeling the pinch in terms of the revenue it counts on from its crude, and we’ll continue to work on this.”
Lavrov also expressed his stern opposition to any military action in Iran, with Novosti quoting him as calling the impact of a strike on the Iranian nuclear program a “catastrophe” for the Middle East.
“It is impossible to list all the consequences [of an attack]. But I have no doubt that it would pour oil on the still smoldering fire of Sunni-Shia [Islamic religious] confrontation, which would lead to a chain reaction.”
Iran is the most powerful Shia-led nation today, while many of the other nations in the Muslim world are of the Sunni branch of Islam.
The talk about a possible military confrontation with Iran and the West intensified in recent months, although Ynet has reported that an upcoming training exercise between Israel and the US was called off in part to prevent tensions with Iran from escalating further.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, January 18, 2012)