June 27 (UPI) -- It will be impossible for Iranian oil customers to bring imports down to zero within the next five months or so, a senior petroleum official said Wednesday.
U.S. President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the U.N.-backed nuclear agreement that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for commitments to scale back its nuclear research ambitions. His decision in May means sanctions on Iran's oil sector will snap back in early November.
Briefing reporters on Tuesday, a senior official at the U.S. State Department told reporters the Trump administration wanted to see all Iranian imports zeroed out by November. An Iranian oil official told semi-officials agency Tasnim in Tehran that scenario was unlikely given the volume of oil at play.
"This big claim is not feasible because last month Iran shipped 2.8 million barrels of crude oil and gas condensate daily," an official at the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum was quoted as saying. "This figure now stands at around 2.5 million barrels and eliminating it easily and in a period of a few months is impossible."
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after Trump's announcement said there was a unified position in Europe that respecting the U.N.-backed agreement with Iran was essential for peace.
The announcement followed comments from Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French minister of European and Foreign Affairs, who said European parties have looked to 1990s rules that would protect French and other European companies from U.S. pressure. A financial mechanism that's "immune" to the U.S. dollar would secure European financial interests in Iran and ensure its oil can still be exported, he said.
On broader geopolitical terms, Trita Parsi, the founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, which has advocated for the Iranian agreement, told UPI the push for zero Iranian oil purchases was a way for the Trump administration to project power.
"The bullying approach may not just be an extension of Trump's personality, but a deliberate strategy that demonstrates that America is still in charge," he said.
Iran has supplied oil to the Asian markets as well. China in particular could be less constricted by U.S. sanctions pressures than its European counterparts.
Shortly after Trump's announcement in May, Paul Sheldon, an associate director at Platts Analytics, said enforcing compliance with the U.S. sanctions move is much more difficult than previous multilateral sanctions.
The price for Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, increased by about 1.6 percent in two days after Trump's announcement in May. Brent was up about 0.9 percent early Wednesday.