Iran central bank: U.S. sanctions aren’t harming oil exports

The leader of Iran’s central bank on Wednesday downplayed the impact of existing and new U.S. sanctions — retaliatory measures by the Trump administration to punish Tehran for nuclear and military activity.

Norwegian oil tanker Front Altair is seen at the port of Muuga, Estonia, on April 29, 2018. It was one of several vessels attacked in recent weeks in the Gulf of Oman.

Abdolnaser Hemmati, governor of the Central Bank of Iran, said the nation’s oil exports have increased recently in the face of the sanctions, including new measures imposed Monday against Iranian leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and top military officials.

“The Islamic Republic has surpassed the summit of resistance and despite the U.S. claim about zeroing out oil sales, the trend of oil exports is increasing,” Hemmati told reporters.

“The Americans have done whatever they could with the sanctions, but the embargoes have no more use.”

His remarks came a day after economic minister Farhad Dezhpasand said Iran’s tax collection in the first quarter of 2019 climbed nearly 30 percent over the same period in 2018. He also said Iran has collected $2 billion in taxes so far.

Statistics from the central bank appeared to buck current trends for Iran, which collected just 62 percent of its annual tax revenue last year. The drop appears to be connected to U.S. sanctions, the statistics showed. However, the bank has not filed a report since November. The Statistical Center of Iran reported the country’s gross domestic product dropped 5 percent in fiscal 2018 from the previous year, another indication the sanctions are having their desired effect.

The White House said in April it would end sanctions waivers for nations doing oil business with Iran in an effort to disrupt Tehran’s primary revenue stream. Experts predicted at the time the move could cut output by a million barrels a day.

The new sanctions provide a direct U.S. answer to recent Iranian military activity. U.S. officials say Iranian forces shot down a military drone and attacked multiple oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman this month. Tehran has denied claims it was behind the tanker attacks. President Donald Trump directly challenged the Iranian regime Tuesday, threatening to respond with “overwhelming” force if Tehran attacks “anything American.”

ByClyde Hughes