EghtesadOnline: The Oil Ministry is at the forefront of fighting the US sanctions, but some power circles criticize it under the name and banner of protecting national interest.
Adding to the plight and pressure on the government under the present extraordinarily difficult conditions is uncalled for, to say the least, head of the Energy Commission of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture said.
“People who castigate Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh in the present circumstances are neither familiar with international relations nor do they have a proper understanding about the oil market and Iran’s adversaries,” Ali Shams Ardekani was quoted as saying by the Persian-language newspaper Etemad.
Last year the United States announced tougher sanctions on Iran’s key oil sector and its banks after President Donald Trump abandoned a landmark nuclear deal that six western powers had signed with Tehran in 2015, according to Financial Tribune.
The US has put more restrictions on Iran’s steel and petrochemical industry and is using all its might to cripple its banking system, oil exports and the economy as a whole.
Despite the severe challenges, the Oil Ministry is trying to sell oil, come hell or high water, the former diplomat said.
In such conditions, “critics not only do not have worries about the country, but are hunting for special privileges and their inherent interest,” the senior energy official added. He did not name names.
As an example, he referred to the infamous oil billionaire Babak Zanjani who was arrested and jailed in December 2013 for corruption, money laundering, forgery, fraud and misappropriating 2.54 billion euros ($2.85 billion) belonging to the Oil Ministry.
“Construction of a refinery costs about $3 billion. The amount of money that Zanjani wasted was the equivalent of one refinery,” he noted.
Ardekani recalled that under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s watch Iran generated $800 billion from oil exports in eight years, which was $63.5 billion over and above the earnings of the country in the entire past century. “Almost all of it was misspent.”
Critics and political opponents of the Rouhani administration accuse Zanganeh and his aides of concentrating only on selling oil instead of building new refineries. They also say that Iran should buy refineries in other countries.
Last month Abolfazl Aboutorabi, representative of Najafabad City to Majlis, said that Zanganeh has always repeated in private and public meetings that he does not believe in the construction of new refineries in the country.
“Zanganeh declares his disagreement with the refinery construction on the grounds that it is not economically viable,”
Censuring the misplaced and unjustified criticism, Ardakani said, “Criticism should be directed at the (Ahmadinejad) government that wasted $800 billion. He and those in charge in his government should be asked why no refinery was bought in other countries during his tenure [2005-20013]. They should answer why Iran’s share in refineries in South Korea, Senegal and South Africa were sold?”
Zanganeh recently told state TV, “If our friends inside the country let us, we will overcome our adversaries.”
“I won’t let more people like Babak Zanjani appear on the scene,” the minister said, asserting that so long as he is in charge he will strive for the national interest.
The minister said despite the high odds and mounting US pressure he remains hopeful about improvement in crude exports.