Posted by on February 19, 2017 3:57 pm
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Categories: Asia B+ Crude Economy Foreign relations of Iran Iran Iran–United States relations Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Mohammad Mohammad Javad Zarif National Iranian Oil Company NBC Negotiations leading to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Nuclear energy in Iran Nuclear program of Iran OPEC Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries Pentagon Politics Politics of Iran Rex Tillerson Tasnim Trump Administration United States government white house

Two weeks after the White House unveiled new sanctions on two dozen Iranian entities in retaliation for a recent ballistic missile test, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard is set to conduct military drills next week, a senior commander announced Saturday, despite warnings from the United States not to engage in such activity and a warning from the White House which said it was putting Iran “on notice.”

“The manoeuvres called ‘Grand Prophet 11’ will start Monday and last three days,” General Mohammad Pakpour, commander of the force’s ground units, told a news conference. He said “rockets would be used” without specifying which kind, according to AFP which first reported the drill.

Three weeks ago, Iran conducted drills involving short-range missiles at a time of heightened tensions with the United States, a test which was condemned as violating the terms of Obama’s nuclear treaty.  The Islamic republic said the exercises were aimed at demonstrating Iran’s “complete preparedness to deal with the threats” and “humiliating sanctions” from Washington. President Trump promptly slapped fresh, if largely meaningless, sanctions against Tehran’s weapons procurement network after the January 29 missile test.

“Iran would do well to look at the calendar and realise there’s a new president in the Oval Office. And Iran would do well not to test the resolve of this new president,” Vice President Mike Pence said earlier this month. New Pentagon chief James Mattis, for his part, has branded Iran “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world”.

Meanwhile, speaking at the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturyda, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told NBC News he dismissed the possibility of renegotiating the nuclear deal, saying there’s little appetite for opening “Pandora’s box.”  “I believe the nuclear deal is going to last,” the foreign minister said firmly, sentiment which numerous republicans – most prominently Paul Ryan – have echoed in recent weeks.

While as noted above, the White House recently said it was putting Iran “on notice” over the missile test, Zarif warned that Iran doesn’t “respond well” to such language and dismissed sanctions as ineffective.

“Threats do not work against Iran,” Zarif told NBC News. “It would work much better if they decided to use the language of respect, the language of mutual interest.”

Trump has repeatedly criticized the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers, having previously warned he would terminate the deal promptly after coming into office.

Zarif on Sunday criticized American implementation of the nuclear deal as “lackluster” and “slow” but stressed the importance of the deal and it’s mechanisms. “It’s a multilateral deal and multilateral deals cannot be reopened for negotiations because it would open a Pandora’s box,” he told NBC News. Still, he said “Iran has many options” on the table if the U.S. opted to unilaterally withdraw and said he hasn’t and won’t rule out a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson if the need arises for discussions about the nuclear deal.

“The possibility has not arisen, no request has been made,” he added. “If a need arises to deal with the nuclear issue we have, we have mechanisms within the nuclear agreement for meetings of the ministers.”

Zarif did not provide further details — but did weigh in on Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily banning Iranian citizens from entering the U.S: “It shows the hostility is towards all Iranians — even Iranian members of Parliament in Europe, because there are ministers, members of parliament in Europe who were born in Iran and they cannot enter the United States. This is absurd. What is the message that the United States Government is trying to send?”

However, Zarif was cautious when asked about a potential escalation of hostilities under the Trump administration. “Iran is not interested in conflict,” he said. “I believe at the end of the day reason and rationality will prevail… There is no cause to be served and great cost to be paid.

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In other news, on Saturday a senior official at Iran’s state-run National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) said that Iran has found shale oil reserves of 2 billion barrels of light crude in its western Lorestan province.

“Based on studies, it is estimated that the shale oil reserves in Ghali Koh in Lorestan amount to 2 billion barrels of oil in place,” Bahman Soleimani, NIOC’s deputy director for exploration, told the semi-official news agency Tasnim. “The oil is light.” Soleimani said exploration was also being carried out for shale gas reserves in the area, and the studies were expected to be completed by October, 2017.

Iran’s proven oil reserves of about 160 billion barrels, almost 10 percent of the world’s total, rank it fourth among petroleum-rich countries.

Earlier on Sunday, Ali Kardor, managing director of National Iranian Oil, said that Iran plans to boost output to 4.7 million b/d by 2021, oil ministry news service Shana reports, and would reach 4mmbpd in output by mid-April, adding more pressure to OPEC (mostly Saudi Arabi) to extend, or even expand, it production cuts beyond the first half. As reported last week, the US found itself with a new all time high inventory glut of both crude and gasoline, as the much anticipated production rebalancing has so far failed to materialize as US shale companies boost output while gasoline demands tumbles, as discussed on Saturday.

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