Cutting funds from terrorism: Iran’s parliament voted to join the “Combating the Financing of Terrorism” (CFT) global convention to avoid more sanctions (Bloomberg). Speaker Ali Larijani said that 143 out of 268 MPs voted to join the CFT, which would cut off terror financing. The bill must be ratified by the Guardian Council, a constitutional body that vets elections and legislation, before it can become a law. Tehran has provided financial and material support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and militant groups in the Gaza Strip, which are designated as terrorist organizations by the West, though being a part of the CFT is “unlikely to prevent Iran from continuing to support such groups.” Joining the CFT is a precondition to being removed from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) blacklist, giving Tehran more access to international banks and providing greater financial transparency. Hardliners oppose the bill and say that Iran is giving up its independence and looking to the West to solve its economic problems. The bill caused a heated debate in parliament, and even resulted in some parliamentarians receiving death threats online (Al-Monitor). Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that neither he nor the president “can guarantee that all problems will go away” if Tehran joins the CFT convention. He added, “But I guarantee that not joining will provide the U.S. with more excuses to increase our problems.”
EU-US tensions: Different approaches on Iran are causing a rift between the European Union and the Trump administration (New York Times). In September, National Security Advisor John Bolton criticized the EU for being “strong on rhetoric and weak on follow-through.” He added, “We do not intend to allow our sanctions to be evaded by Europe or anyone else.” The White House believes the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is flawed since it does not constrain Iran’s influence in the Middle East. The EU claims that the U.S. has not countered Iran’s actions, and that it is the Europeans who are sitting down with Tehran for negotiations about its regional activities in countries such as Iraq and Syria.
Oil numbers: There is incongruity in Iranian oil export numbers (Bourse & Bazaar). According to S&P Global Platts, Iran’s September exports were at about 1.7 million bpd. However, according to TankTrackers.com, which studies Iranian oil shipments through satellite imagery, the export volume is over 2 million bpd. Recent reports demonstrate that Iran has resorted to its old playbook of sanctions evasion. This includes turning off its oil tankers’ tracking devices, floating oil in tankers as storage, and relying on ship-to-ship transfers of oil. Interestingly, an oil tanker carrying 2 million barrels was discharged onto a storage tank at the Chinese port of Dalian (Reuters). Contrary to previous reports that New Delhi would reduce its Iranian oil imports to zero, sources say that India will purchase 9 million barrels of Iranian crude in November (Reuters). India’s oil minister said that two Indian oil companies plan to import Iranian crude next month (CNBC). Also, the Iranian oil minister dismissed talks of Saudi Arabia replacing Iranian oil as “nonsense” (Reuters). Meanwhile, the Trump administration is “actively considering” waivers on Iranian oil. The U.S. granted BP and Serica Energy a new license to run a North Sea gas field partly owned by Iran (Reuters). However, President Donald Trump warned that the United States will take care of countries that defy bringing Iranian oil imports to zero by November 4 (Economic Times).