Tensions in the Middle East rose again over the weekend after reports indicated that four oil vessels were “attacked” or “sabotaged” at the mouth of the Persian Gulf near Fujairah Emirate, just outside of the Strait of Hormuz. The United Arab Amirates (UAE) stated that the damaged ships were two crude oil tankers owned by Saudi Arabian shipping firm Bahri, one fuel bunker barge flying a UAE flag and Norwegian oil products tanker owned by Thome Ship management. These reports are still largely unconfirmed, but come as no surprise given the recent rhetoric and geopolitical tensions facing the region.
Global oil prices shot up quickly this week following reports that the Trump administration has decided to let Iranian oil sanctions exemptions expire at the end of the month. By ending sanctions exemptions, the administration has accelerated its goal of forcing Iran’s oil exports to zero. At a Monday press conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo clearly laid out the purpose of ending the waivers by stating “We are going to zero. How long we remain there, at zero, depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s senior leaders. We’ve made our demands very clear to the ayatollah and his cronies.”
The United States sanctions against Iran’s oil exports entered into full force last week as the United States attempts to cripple Iran’s oil-dependent economy and suppress their nuclear desires. Although Washington has vowed to halt all purchases of crude from Iran, it recently supplied eight countries with waivers to continue imports without penalty for the next 180 days. While President Trump views this as a way to stabilize any fear of global price spikes, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani believes the United States had no choice but to grant the waivers and Iran has publicly stated they will continue to export as much oil as needed. However, one thing to be cognizant of is, how will Iran ship their product?
Today, oil prices dropped to $83 a barrel after the United States said it is actively considering waivers on the oil sanctions against Iran, potentially easing the current strain on supply and allowing Iranian oil exports to keep flowing.