How Iran May Get Around Oil Sanctions Over Nuclear Program

Tensions appear to have eased with Iran as gas prices lower, but the apparent calm may still conceal an inevitable conflict.

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Gregg Laskoski is a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com.

Crude oil for June delivery reached $106 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange this week, and that's the highest price seen since March 27. Explaining why prices have fallen 4 percent from a March 1 peak, Bloomberg said it's because tensions have eased between Iran and Western nations over the country's nuclear program.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on gas prices.]

However, the apparent calm may still conceal an inevitable conflict. On Monday Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak made a speech to the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem where he said the following:

Iranian deception and lies concerning their nuclear program have been on-going and well-documented. Yet parts of the world, including some politically motivated Israeli figures, prefer to bury their heads in sand... A military option is not a simple one. It will be complicated with certain associated risks. But a radical Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons would be far more dangerous both to the region and, indeed, to the whole world.

Iran's second round of negotiations with the U.N. Security Council's "P5+1" group (United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) is scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad. European Union countries have already cut imports of Iranian crude, and Iran is now storing its oil in a fleet of 14 very large crude carriers, each loaded with about 2 million barrels of oil, which are anchored and acting as floating storage. Reuters says that most of the tanker fleet has turned off their transponders in order to avoid detection.

[ Read the U.S. News debate: Should the U.S. Discourage Israel From Attacking Iran?]

And more tankers are on their way. Chinese shipyards are reportedly delivering the first of 12 supertankers this month to Iran, two months ahead of the July sanctions that are supposed to make it difficult for most countries to engage in oil commerce with Iran. The 12 crude carriers will increase Iran's tanker fleet from 39 to 51.

Maybe that's why Barak said the sanctions, to date, have "forced the Iranians to take note, to sit down and to talk. The P-5+1 engagement of Iran, however, does not fill me with confidence. I may sound pessimistic, but the State of Israel cannot afford to be duped."

The United States cannot afford it either. If evidence of Iran's uranium development for nuclear weaponry is to draw us in, it had better be indisputable.