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The Latest from Iran (7 December): Maintaining the Oil Squeeze

See also The Latest from Iran (6 December): "We're Still Winning"

2210 GMT: Oil Watch. An industry source claims Iranian oil exports will fall to a new low of 834,000 barrels per day in December.

This would be a sharp drop from Iran's October figure of 1.3 million barrels per day and a declinemore than 60% from last year's level of 2.2 million bpd.

Iran's recorded low this year was 860,000 barrels per day in the summer.

2200 GMT: Sanctions Watch. We return to our opening entry (see 0720 GMT) of the extension of US waivers from financial sanctions for those countries which reduce imports of Iranian oil.

The State Department announced further six-month extensions for nine countries tonight. As expected, waivers for renewed for India, South Korea, and Turkey before next Tueday's expiration. The US also acted now rather than waiting for the deadline later this month for China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.

2100 GMT: Foreign Affairs (Syrian Front). An interesting ripple in the Iranian media on the Syrian crisis --- Alef, linked to leading MP Ahmad Tavakoli, has criticized State broadcaster IRIB for one-sided programmes on developments.

2020 GMT: Economy Watch. Thursday's telling admission came from a Deputy Speaker of Parliament who said Iran's foreign reserves are $40 billion, about half of the level in December 2011.

Today's admission is a general one from Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, referring to the sharp reduction in the budget for development projects: "This year we are experiencing economic drought but the authorities should demonstrate acumen and direct the capacities of the country in the right direction."

1257 GMT: Economy Watch. Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moqaddam, a senior lawmaker and member of Parliament's Budget Planning Commission, has called upon the government to “manage the imports, decrease dependence on oil revenues and increase the non-oil exports in its economic approach named as Economy of Resistance.”

Unlike Basij chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi’s attempt this morning to rally support for the regime’s economic strategy, Moqaddam, who has been critical of the government’s mismanagement of the situation, is chiding the authorities to get their act together and solve Iran’s economic problems.

1212 GMT: Drone Watch. Following Tuesday’s capture of a US unmanned US surveillance plane, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has claimed Iran can help other countries in the region “counter foreign drones.”

1147 GMT: Nuclear Negotiations Watch. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has said that Tehran is ready for talks with the P5+1 countries regarding Iran’s nuclear programme, so long as discussions take a “logical approach.”

PressTV’s report has dropped any reference to direct bilateral talks with the United States, which supports our interpretation yesterday that Iran is backing away from bilateral contacts out of an increasing sense of frustration.

At the same time, it is clear that Tehran is keen to resume negotiations.

The P5+1 have been stalling on giving Iran any kind of signal about talks for months, even after their 21 November meeting in Brussels, and Mehmanparast’s remarks can be seen as part of the regime’s continued attempt to prompt a response from the P5+1 countries.

1109 GMT: Friday Prayer Watch. In his first sermon as the new Friday Prayer leader, Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani has made a call for unity behind the Supreme Leader despite – and because of – Iran’s ongoing economic problems.

Alongside standard rhetoric about the recently captured US drone and dismissal of foreign intervention in Syria, Ayatollah Kermani’s remarks reveal a serious expression of concern over the economy and whether the Iranian people will continue to support the regime’s handling of the situation.

0952 GMT: Nuclear Watch. The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, has expressed his willingness to share “sensitive data” with Iran “when appropriate” in order to foster Iranian cooperation over concerns about its nuclear programme, according to Al-Monitor’s Barbara Slavin.

Tehran has long complained that the IAEA has not shared certain documents and material that have been used as evidence to back up allegations about Iran’s nuclear aspirations.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, Amano said, “we are now negotiating an approach as a whole [to resolving questions about alleged weapons work] and sharing of information is part of it.”

0944 GMT: Economy Watch. Speaking before Tehran Friday Prayers, the head of Basij militia, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, has called for the "mobilisation of resistance" to resist economic sanctions.

0930 GMT: Threat of the Day. Iran Pulse’s Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi reports that “Iran’s General Prosecutor has formed a committee to build a case to claim damages against 18 American individuals or authorities held to be responsible for alleged terrorism against Iran.”

Those threatened with lawsuits include “two American officials called Jack Keane, a former commander of American army ground forces and Reuel Marc Gerecht, an expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, because of their statements to members of Congress, based on the necessity of planning the assassination of Commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, such as Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani.”

0902 GMT: Sanctions Watch. David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury Department, has hinted that the U.S. sanctions directed at Iran will be tightened even further in February 2013 as a new measure comes into effect that prohibits countries that import Iranian oil from transferring Tehran’s revenues to other countries.

Cohen stated that this will effectively mean that "Iran's oil revenues will largely be shackled within a given country and only useable to purchase goods from that country,” thus limiting Tehran’s ability to reinvest its oil income elsewhere.

In addition, any banks that do transfer Iran’s oil earnings outside their own borders will risk losing access to the U.S. banking system.

0720 GMT: US Government sources have said that Washington will extend waivers from sanctions for six months for India, South Korea, Turkey, and other countries because they have reduced their purchases of Iranian oil.

The current waivers for the countries named yesterday were due to expire this week. They were introduced this year after Congressional legislation mandated financial penalties against any country taking Iranian crude. 

U.S. waivers for China, the top consumer of Iran's oil, and Singapore are due to expire on 25 December. Both countries are expected to get waiver extensions, possibly today. 

Japan and 10 European Union countries received six-month waivers in September.

Iran's oil exports were 2.2 million barrels per day in 2011, but have fallen as low as 860,000 bpd this year. They recovered to 1.3 million bpd in October, largely because some contracts were fulfilled with China and South Korea, but that increase is likely to be limited and temporary.

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