Iran feels sanctions pain as oil income slumps
By Peg Mackey and Alex Lawler
LONDON (Reuters) - Iran's state finances have come under unprecedented pressure and the resilience of ordinary people is being tested by soaring inflation as oil income plummets due to tightening Western sanctions and sharply falling oil prices.
Tough financial measures imposed by Washington and Brussels have made it ever more difficult to pay for and ship oil from Iran. Its oil output has sunk to the lowest in 20 years, cutting revenue that is vital to fund a sprawling state apparatus.
Already down by more than a quarter, or about 600,000 barrels per day, from rates of 2.2 million bpd last year, shipments of crude oil from Iran are expected to drop further when a European Union oil embargo takes effect on July 1.
Tehran is already estimated to have lost more than $10 billion in oil revenues this year.
Causing even more pain, oil prices fell below $100 a barrel last week to a 16-month low amid a darkening outlook for economies in Europe, the United States and China.
"This is an act of economic warfare. The sanctions are having a big effect in cumulative terms: Iran is being locked out of the global financial system," said Mehdi Varzi, a former official at the National Iranian Oil Co.
"It does appear that Iran is more amenable to negotiations now than it was a year ago. The West should take advantage of this momentary situation to offer more meaningful concessions - a road map to where this will all end," said Varzi, now running an energy consultancy in Britain, Varzi Energy.
Diplomats and analysts say Iran may offer the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, increased cooperation as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with world powers, which resumed in April after a 15-month hiatus and are to continue in Moscow on June 18-19. Continued...