Iran enjoys trolling the United States. In fact, it’s something of hobby for the Ayatollah, who has maintained the country’s semi-official “death to America” slogan even as President Rouhani plays good cop with Obama and Kerry.
The ink was barely dry on the nuclear accord when Tehran test-fired a next-gen surface-to-surface ballistic missile with the range to hit archrival Israel, a move that most certainly violated the spirit of the deal if not the letter. Two months later, the IRGC conducted live rocket drills in close proximity to an American aircraft carrier and then, on the eve of President Obama’s final state-of-the-union address, Iran essentially kidnapped 10 American sailors in what amounted to a truly epic publicity stunt.
All of this raises serious questions about just how committed Tehran is to nurturing the newfound relationship with America, a state which for years sought to impoverish Iran as “punishment” for what the West swears was an illegitimate effort to build a nuclear weapon.
As regular readers are no doubt aware, Iran is now set to ramp up crude production by some 500,000 b/d in H1 and by 1 million b/d by the end of the year now that international sanctions have been lifted. In the latest humiliation for Washington, Tehran now says it wants to be paid for its oil in euros, not dollars.
“Iran wants to recover tens of billions of dollars it is owed by India and other buyers of its oil in euros and is billing new crude sales in euros, too, looking to reduce its dependence on the U.S. dollar following last month's sanctions relief,” Reuters reports. "In our invoices we mention a clause that buyers of our oil will have to pay in euros, considering the exchange rate versus the dollar around the time of delivery," an National Iranian Oil Co. said. Here’s more:
Iran has also told its trading partners who owe it billions of dollars that it wants to be paid in euros rather than U.S. dollars, said the person, who has direct knowledge of the matter.
Iran was allowed to recover some of the funds frozen under U.S.-led sanctions in currencies other than dollars, such as the Omani rial and UAE dhiram.
Switching oil sales to euros makes sense as Europe is now one of Iran's biggest trading partners.
"Many European companies are rushing to Iran for business opportunities, so it makes sense to have revenue in euros," said Robin Mills, chief executive of Dubai-based Qamar Energy.
Iran's insistence on being paid in euros rather than dollars is also a sign of an uneasy truce between Tehran and Washington even after last month's lifting of most sanctions.
U.S. officials estimate about $100 billion (69 billion pound) of Iranian assets were frozen abroad, around half of which Tehran could access as a result of sanctions relief.
It is not clear how much of those funds are oil dues that Iran would want back in euros.
India owes Tehran about $6 billion for oil delivered during the sanctions years.
Last month, NIOC's director general for international affairs told Reuters that Iran "would prefer to receive (oil money owed) in some foreign currency, which for the time being is going to be euro."
Indian government sources confirmed Iran is looking to be paid in euros.
Iran has pushed for years to have the euro replace the dollar as the currency for international oil trade. In 2007, Tehran failed to persuade OPEC members to switch away from the dollar, which its then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called a "worthless piece of paper".
Of course all fiat money amounts to "worthless pieces of paper" and as things currently stand, the USD is the least "worthless" of the lot which means that Iran's insistence on being paid in a currency that Mario Draghi is hell bent on devaluing might seem strange to anyone who knows nothing about geopolitics.
Put simply, this has very little to do with economics and a whole lot to do with sending a message. "Iran shifted to the euro and canceled trade in dollars because of political reasons," the same NOIC source told Reuters.
Right. So basically, Iran is looking to punish the US for instituting years of economic tyranny by de-dollarizing the oil trade.
This comes at a time when the petrodollar is under tremendous pressure. Russia and China are already settling oil sales in yuan and "lower for longer" crude has broken the virtuous circle whereby producing countries were net exporters of capital, recycling their USD proceeds into USD assets thus underwriting decades of dollar dominance.
The question, we suppose, is whether other producers move away from the dollar just as Russia and Iran have. If there's a wholesale shift away from settling oil sales in greenbacks, another instrument of US hegemony will be dismantled and Washington's leverage over "unfriendly" producers will have been broken.
The irony is this: if Iran follows through on its promises to flood an already oversupplied market, crude might not fetch any "worthless pieces of paper" at all - dollars or euros.