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Trump says he's withdrawing from Iran nuclear accord

16 May 2018

There seems to be some sort of agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia that if Washington takes the fight to Iran, Saudi Arabia would step in to prevent a crude oil price spike, a perennial problem for USA politicians.

At the same time the OPEC oil cartel and other oil producing countries - notably Russian Federation - have agreed to restrict production to boost prices.

The United States threatened on Sunday to impose sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran, as the remaining participants in the Iran nuclear accord stiffened their resolve to keep that agreement operational.

Trump telegraphed the move, and oil prices shot up in recent weeks as traders anticipated it.

There has also been some influence by the Jewish Organizations in the USA who, in the aftermath of President Trump's announcement, wasted no time in lobbying foreign Embassies to support his stance. Hours before Trump's announcement, federal government forecasters raised their estimate for 2018 oil prices by 10.5% to an average of $65.58 a barrel.

However, they bounced back strongly in Asia and there is talk it could continue rising to $80 a barrel, with gains helped by uncertainty in oil-rich Venezuela, the OPEC-Russia output cap, improving global demand and data pointing to a drop in United States stockpiles.

"The average family out there can expect to pay about $200 more than they paid last driving season and about $250 more than the 2016 driving season", says Kloza.

"It will be more painful for motorists than the past two years - but nothing close to 2011 to 2014 when it was $3.40 to $3.60 a gallon", said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at OPIS.

However, even as the Saudis are set to enjoy a wave of revenues from higher prices, their gambit also carries risks.

It's a notion that seems to be supported by the words and actions of Israel's president, Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, Mohammad bin Salman.

Even without disruption to Iran's crude flows, the balance between supply and demand in the oil market has been tightening steadily, especially in Asia, with top exporter Saudi Arabia and No.1 producer Russian Federation having led efforts since 2017 to cap output to prop up prices. For Iranian companies it will increase their operating costs, particularly those that rely on foreign markets for either their inputs or exports.

Several US military officials told CNN that there are increasing concerns Iran is on the cusp of an attack against Israel.

French ambassador Kareen Rispal, whose country takes over the G7 presidency from Canada next year, said the group would overcome its obstacles.

"The three or four-year period of quiet in terms of geopolitics impacting oil markets is over", said Canary's Eberhart.

Trump's decision gives Iranian oil customers 180 days to find other reserves and could eventually limit about 1 million barrels of oil from a market with little spare capacity to work with. Major European companies could see billions of dollars in commercial deals canceled because of the US decision to re-impose sanctions.

In 2016, the European Union exported more than €8.2 billion ($9.7 billion) worth of goods to Iran, while importing nearly €5.5 billion ($6.5 billion) from there, according to the European Commission. China, Iran's largest customer, may be especially reluctant to cut Iran off because of the trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Zarif's statement said that with the USA withdrawal from the deal, Iran is prepared to embark on the 2025 enrichment project now. That figure rises to less than 500,000 barrels per day after six months. And so many interests benefit from higher oil prices; it appears there is a part of the world ready, and willing, to accept much more expensive energy. He omitted which parties he was referring to, but it is safe to say that he was talking about Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia needs higher oil prices to fill budget gaps, and it also wants to ratchet up prices ahead of the Aramco IPO.

Obama described his work as "a model for what diplomacy can accomplish - its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea". In fact, the Energy Information Administration lifted its 2019 domestic output forecast on Tuesday by almost 4% to a record 11.9 million barrels per day.

Trump says he's withdrawing from Iran nuclear accord