India to pay gold instead of dollars for Iranian oil

DEBKAfile
January 26, 2012

India is the first buyer of Iranian oil to agree to pay for its purchases in gold instead of the US dollar, debkafile’s intelligence and Iranian sources report exclusively. Those sources expect China to follow suit. India and China take about one million barrels per day, or 40 percent of Iran’s total exports of 2.5 million bpd. Both are superpowers in terms of gold assets.

By trading in gold, New Delhi and Beijing enable Tehran to bypass the upcoming freeze on its central bank’s assets and the oil embargo which the European Union’s foreign ministers agreed to impose Monday, Jan. 23. The EU currently buys around 20 percent of Iran’s oil exports.

The vast sums involved in these transactions are expected, furthermore, to boost the price of gold and depress the value of the dollar on world markets. Iran’s second largest customer after China, India purchases around $12 billion a year’s worth of Iranian crude, or about 12 percent of its consumption. Delhi is to execute its transactions, according to our sources, through two state-owned banks: the Calcutta-based UCO Bank, whose board of directors is made up of Indian government and Reserve Bank of India representatives; and Halk Bankasi (Peoples Bank), Turkey’s seventh largest bank which is owned by the government. An Indian delegation visited Tehran last week to discuss payment options in view of the new sanctions. The two sides were reported to have agreed that payment for the oil purchased would be partly in yen and partly in rupees. The switch to gold was kept dark.

India thus joins China in opting out of the US-led European sanctions against Iran’s international oil and financial business. Turkey announced publicly last week that it would not adhere to any sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program unless they were imposed by the United Nations Security Council. The EU decision of Monday banned the signing of new oil contracts with Iran at once, while phasing out existing transactions by July 1, 2012, when the European embargo, like the measure enforced by the United States, becomes total. The European foreign ministers also approved a freeze on the assets of the Central Bank of Iran which handles all the country’s oil transactions. However, the damage those sanctions cause the Iranian economy will be substantially cushioned by the oil deals to be channeled through Turkish and Indian state banks.  China for its part has declared its opposition to sanctions against Iran.

debkafile’s intelligence sources disclose that Tehran has set up alternative financial mechanisms with China and Russia for getting paid for its oil in currencies other than US dollars. Both Beijing and Moscow are keeping the workings of those mechanisms top secret.

European Union Makes a Push for War

Both the UK and the United States send more warships to the Strait of Hormuz

Russia Today
January 23, 2012

Tensions in the Gulf could reach a breaking point as a senior Iranian official said Iran would “definitely” close the Strait of Hormuz if an EU oil embargo disrupted the export of crude oil, the semi-official Fars news agency reports.

The announcement came in response to a decision by the European Union on Monday to impose an oil embargo on Iran over the country’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

“The pressure of sanctions is designed to try and make sure that Iran takes seriously our request to come to the table,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

However, with Washington’s decision to deploy a second carrier strike group in the Gulf, the EU’s attempt to pressure Iran economically could greatly increase the likelihood of all-out war in the region.

The Strait of Hormuz is the vital link between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

It is also one of the most strategic chokepoints in the world when it comes to oil transit.

With world oil output estimated at some 88 million barrels per day in 2011, the US Energy Information Administration estimated that some 17 million of those barrels passed through the Strait.

If economic sanctions sufficiently pressure Iran to retaliate by closing down the Strait, nearly 20 per cent of worldwide oil trade would be impacted, resulting in a massive spike in global energy costs.

With over half a million regular forces and an additional 120,000 personnel in the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard,  analysts believe the consequences of a US-led war against Iran would dwarf recent Western-backed military incursions the Middle East.

Thus far, the US decision to maintain two carrier strike groups in the region has been described as “a routine activity” by Iran.

But the vast US military buildup in the region, which was bolstered when the Pentagon dispatched an additional 15,000 troops to the neighboring nation of Kuwait, was only the latest step in an obvious attempt by Washington to strengthen its military capabilities in the region.

However since 1988, when the United States managed to destroy some 25 per cent of Iran’s larger naval capability during Operation Praying Mantis, Iran has spent the last two decades preparing its Revolutionary Guard naval forces to exploit the vulnerabilities of the United States’ larger conventional forces.

According to Revolutionary Guard commander Brigadier General Jafaari, “The enemy is far more advanced technologically than we are, we have been using what is called asymmetric warfare methods… our forces are now well prepared for it,” he said, as cited by Global Bearings.

Ultimately,  the latest round of brinkmanship between Iran and the West may force Iran to the negotiating table over its uranium enrichment program.

However, the EU strategy of averting “chaos in the Middle East” by tightening the economic noose around Iran could spark the very conflagration it was ostensibly trying to avert.