There is already much controversy regarding expectations from the cancellation of sanctions on Iran after the deal reached with the six major powers over its nuclear programme.
The expected changes in global oil markets - especially those related to prices – are of particular importance given that Iran is a key oil producing and exporting country and retains an influential productive capacity.
Initially, and without doubt, the removal of sanctions will have a significant impact on oil prices. In fact, the effect even preceded the formal ending of the sanctions and began once the announcement of the deal’s abiding principles was revealed in April.
In June, China’s imports of Iranian oil rose 26 per cent while there was a concomitant decline in its imports of Saudi oil. This was due to the steep discounts offered by Tehran for Asian buyers in particular and the facilities provided to them, including acceptance of transactions in the buyers’ currencies or via a trade-off between oil and various goods imported from those countries by Iran.
This shift is one of the indicators by which we can trace the expected changes after the signing of the nuclear agreement and the cancellation of sanctions. It would lead to pumping millions of additional barrels of oil into the market, thus leading to a large surplus that will undoubtedly cause oil prices to fall considerably.
This is especially true since the international oil and gas companies, including European majors, have intensified their invest strategies for Iran’s oil and gas industry as soon as the announcement of the deal was reached.
It will mean tens of billions of dollars will be invested in the industry, which will raise the production capacity significantly.
This corresponds with Iran’s efforts at providing additional facilities to these companies, because it is in need of more oil revenues to finance its economic and military programmes and to support organisations in Arab countries that back Iran, especially Lebanon’s Hezbollah and financing wars and interventions in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
Needless to say that all this drains the financial capacity of Tehran at the expense of the Iranian people and reduces the positive aspects of the nuclear agreement.
If we add the Iraq oil programme to increase the production capacity from 3 to 6 million barrels per day, then Opec’s production will rise by 20 per cent to 36 million barrels per day after the full lifting of sanctions.
This will lead to a significant drop in oil prices to below $40 per barrel, which will limit the benefits of lifting the Iran sanctions and the increase to its production capacity.
This will also have a negative impact on all producing and oil exporting countries.
At the same time, this will lead to the intensification of competition and the transformation of the international oil market into a buyers’ market.
Discounts and an increase of facilities provided will increase and many oil importing countries will benefit, especially in Asia, which will take advantage of this situation to get their supplies at low prices.
These countries will also have an opportunity to fill their reservoirs and raise their reserves of oil.
That means that Iran - despite the lifting of sanctions and increase in its oil production capacity - will not benefit a lot. There will not be a significant increase in its oil revenues.
The fall in oil prices will impact a large part of the expected increase in revenues, especially since the many big producers in Opec have stronger competitive pricing capabilities than Iran.
Also, their financial position is better as they have no obligations to finance wars and foreign organisations, as is the case with Iran, which is working to create hotbeds of tension and instability in the region.
Hence, there are important and significant developments ahead for the oil markets. There will be economic and developmental consequences for all major economies, including the oil exporting and importing countries.