Thursday, July 22, 2010

Russia Profits from US Sanctions on Iran

According to an AFP account from Moscow and some of my sources in Washington, Russia has signed agreements with Iran to supply fuel to that now energy-hungry country, despite unilateral US and EU sanctions targeting Tehran's oil and gas sectors.

"Russian companies are prepared to deliver oil products to Iran. The possibility of delivering oil products to Iran exists, if there is a commercial interest," said Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko.

Russia has already expressed its dissatisfaction with the sanction measures agreed to last month by the United States and the European Union to punish Iran for its defiance in the nuclear standoff. These go beyond the new UN sanctions that were agreed to by Russia and other world powers which mainly target military-related industries. "Sanctions cannot hinder us," Shmatko said after a meeting in Moscow with Iranian Oil Minister Massoud Mir Kazemi, quoted by Russian news agencies.

The two ministers also signed a joint declaration boosting cooperation in energy that provides Moscow and Tehran a "roadmap" to plan out their future oil and gas cooperation. The declaration says that the two sides will also consider the creation of a joint bank to finance oil and gas projects as well as the founding of other joint energy ventures.

Iran, which holds around 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, is the world's fourth-biggest oil exporter and the second-largest producer in the oil cartel OPEC after Saudi Arabia. However a lack of refining capacity and inefficiency problems means Iran has to import vast volumes of petrol from a variety of sources in order to satisfy domestic demand. According to Russian news agencies, Mir Kazemi declared that sanctions "will in no way have an effect on the economic and industrial development of Iran. Independent countries are truly cooperating with Iran."

The sanctions signed into law by President Barack Obama effectively shut US markets to any firms that provide Iran with refined petroleum products. EU leaders have agreed sanctions banning new investment, technical assistance and technology transfers to Iran's gas and oil industries.

Russia’s action was taken after a resent visit by Russia’s President to Washington during which he had promised cooperation with the United States on enforcing the sanctions. Some people in Washington were quick to point out that one benefit of this political maneuvering by Russia has resulted in a significant increase in the profits they will realized on the petroleum products they will be supplying to Iran.

Despite this disappointing behavior, the Russians did do one thing which will please both Washington and Israel. Russian military official Alexander Fomin on Tuesday did not refer to the S-300s by name, but pledged Moscow would desist from supplying “large missile systems,” in accordance with the sanctions. During a visit to Jerusalem three weeks ago, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Layrov said that a presidential decree on what weapons would and would not be sold was being formulated, following the UN Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on Iran.

Speaking about Russia, we sometimes loose sight of how much true progress we have made in the United States dealing with immigration and prejudice. Here is a video clip report on the growing violence in Russia against immigrants entering that country looking for jobs:

More News Tidbits:

1) As if once were not enough, it seems 2 more masseuses have turned up and are accusing Al Gore of sexual misconduct.

When Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan in December, he argued that by setting a deadline of next summer to begin drawing down troops he would create a sense of urgency for the Afghan government to take the lead in the fight. But over the past two weeks Mr. Obama has been reminded how the goal has become what one senior American military commander called a “double-edged sword,” one that hanging. The absence of serious progress this year has created doubt , here and abroad, that Mr. Obama will be able to reach even the scaled-down goals he set for America’s mission in the time he laid out in his speech at West Point seven months ago. The result is that the fierce debate over whether the war is worth the cost — a debate that Mr. Obama did not want to join until the Taliban suffered some losses, is happening one summer earlier than he had hoped. Mr. Obama has begun losing critical political figures and strategists who are increasingly vocal in arguing that the benefits of continuing on the current course for at least another year, and probably longer, are greatly outweighed by the escalating price. For two months, Democrats in Congress have been holding up billions of dollars in additional financing for the war, longer than they ever delayed similar requests from President Bush. Most Republican leaders have largely backed a continued commitment, but the White House was surprised the other day when one of Mr. Obama’s mentors on foreign policy issues in the Senate, Richard Lugar of Indiana, argued that “the lack of clarity in Afghanistan does not end with the president’s timetable,” and that both the military and civilian missions were “proceeding without a clear definition of success.

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