Iranian policymakers are threatening to halt all oil sales to Europe immediately in response to new oil sanctions the European Union passed earlier this week.
As expected, the EU member states agreed on Monday to embargo all Iranian oil over the next six months in an effort to increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. Western nations believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear program, a charge Tehran continues to deny.
In response to the EU’s oil embargo, a number of Iran’s Members of Parliament said the body will consider halting all oil exports to Europe immediately. The move is intended to devastate the economies of South European nations-particularly Spain, Italy and Greece who are the three largest consumers of Iranian oil in the EU.
“Europe will burn in the fire of Iran’s oil wells,” Nasser Soudani, an MP who sits on the Energy Committee, told Iranian media on Wednesday. Soudani went on to say that the Parliament could take up the issue when it meets next on January 29.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also said the oil embargo would hurt European economies more than Iran. “Hurried decision by EU states to use oil as a political tool will have a negative effect on the world economy and especially on recovering European economies which are fighting to overcome the global financial crisis,” a statement released by Iran’s FM read.
The EU’s oil embargo is part of an effort by the West to increase pressure on the Iranian regime in order to curb its nuclear activities. On New Year’s Eve President Obama signed into law sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, which is the primary mechanism through which Iran’s oil sales are processed. The bill allows the President to close off U.S. financial and consumer markets to any third-party entity that continues to conduct business with Iran’s Central Bank. On Tuesday, the U.S. administration also announced sanctions against Iran’s third largest bank.
Profits from oil sales account for roughly 65% of government revenues in Iran. Tehran has previously threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s oil transits, if the West enacts the oil sanctions. U.S. officials have called closing down the Strait of Hormuz a “redline” and threatened to militarily reopen the strategic chokepoint if Iran sought to close it.
It’s unclear how effective the West’s oil sanctions will be unless Asian nations go along with them. China, the largest purchaser of Iranian oil, criticized the EU’s decision to adopt an oil embargo. Similarly, India has said that it will not abide by U.S. or any other sanctions not adopted by the U.N. Security Council. Even Washington’s closest ally in the region, Japan, has resisted pressure to curb its consumption of Iranian oil.