Is Asia doing enough to curb Iranian oil purchases?
Although Japan's imports from Iran fell in October from September, they have risen since the middle of the year when purchases stopped amid concern over the measures to prevent European re-insurers, who dominate the global shipping industry, from offering coverage.
What is clear from looking at the big four Asian buyers of Iranian crude is that they made some effort to cut purchases, but seem in recent months to be happy to resume taking cargoes, albeit at lower volumes than in past years.
This tallies with the International Energy Agency's Nov. 13 report, which said Iranian exports rose to 1.3 million bpd in October from 1 million bpd the prior two months.
Asia's big four took 1.165 million bpd of Iran's October total, meaning that if the Western powers are looking to further squeeze Tehran, they will have to look at Asia to both inflict the pain and take the pain of finding alternate crude sources.
Given the seeming lack of progress on resolving the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions and the ongoing defiant tone of Tehran's leaders, it seems that making the crude waivers tougher to obtain may only be a matter of time.
The comfort expressed by officials in Asia's top crude importers may well be short-lived.
Asian importers probably now have two reasons to hope for lower oil prices, firstly to help their own import bills and secondly,
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