US Mulls Sanctioning China’s State Oil Giant Over Iranian Crude

A private and smaller oil trader has already been sanctioned but measures against the CNPC would be a major escalation

CNPC is far larger and unlike Zhuhai Zhenrong has exposure to the US

The Trump Administration’s decision to reimpose sanctions on the Iranian oil trade has dramatically reduced Iranian crude exports – but it hasn’t stopped some of the U.S.’s largest economic rivals from accepting shipments of Iranian crude, according to several media investigations. Not only has China continued to import Iranian crude, so have several other Asian and Mediterranean countries, [actually that’s not true, aside from Syria after May others have only brought in oil that was purchased before the waiver expiration] according to data from several tanker tracking services studied by the New York Times and other media organizations.

Per the NYT, in April 2018, before Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal, Iran exported 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. One year later, that figure was at one million. And in June, after the end of the exceptions or waivers, ships in Iranian ports loaded about 500,000 barrels per day, [actually it’s more like just 200,000 barrels, with aside from Syria which buys on credit Zhuhai Zhenrong and CNPC being the only remaining buyers] according to Reid I’Anson, an energy economist at Kpler, a company tracking seaborne commodities.

Of course, this fact isn’t lost on the Trump Administration, which, according to the FT, has been tracking the movements of tankers linked to China’s biggest state-run oil company amid signs that the ships are helping to bring in Iranian crude.

China National Petroleum Corp, via its subsidiary, the Bank of Kunlun, has, in recent months, employed a fleet of tankers to move oil from Iran to China.

Visualization of tanker traffic shows the route some of these tankers take 
Satellite images of some of these tankers docking at Chinese ports

Last week, the Treasury Department sanctioned Chinese oil trader Zhuhai Zhenrong for buying oil from Iran. The decision was intended to send a message to other Chinese firms, and anyone else buying Iranian oil who also hoped to do business with the U.S.

“Any entity considering evading our restrictions, particularly related to Iranian petrochemicals, should take this message seriously,” said one official. “We recently sanctioned Zhuhai Zhenrong…for knowingly engaging in a significant transaction for the purchase or acquisition of crude oil from Iran. This action underscores our commitment to enforcement.”

But targeting CNPC would be an especially serious escalation at a time when tensions between the U.S. and China are nearing a breaking point. Even as satellite data and imagery suggest that the tankers linked to Bank of Kunlun are employing tactics including turning off tracking devices and changing their names.

Any U.S. decision to target CNPC would mark a significant escalation given the company’s status as China’s largest oil producer. Its publicly listed arm, PetroChina, has operations in the U.S. and secondary shares listed in New York, in addition to partnerships with international energy companies such as Ineos.

Bank of Kunlun said it was “not involved in the crude oil import business” and denied having “violated any laws or regulations.” But people in Washington familiar with the activities of the bank said it was viewed by the U.S. as a “bad actor.” “Bank of Kunlun has always been the sacrificial lamb for CNPC and, more broadly, for the Chinese government,” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official. “It is a bank that the Chinese government recognises as expendable in some sense.”

And cracking down on the Bank of Kunlun would come with certain risks that might impede the U.S.’s agenda, particularly when it comes to North Korea.

“China is not going to do the U.S. any favours,” said Dennis Wilder, a former top CIA and White House official. “This is the price you pay strategically. You cannot tell China on the one hand to be aligned with you on Iran and North Korea and at the same time decide you’re going to retard or destroy some of their corporations.”

Still, after labeling China a currency manipulator last night, it appears Washington has decided on a hardline approach. Will sanctions on CNPC and the rest of the Chinese energy industry be next?

After all, Beijing has made clear that it has no problem being Iran’s most important lifeline during an extremely difficult time.

Source: Zero Hedge

  1. John C Carleton says

    You know, once a skunk is infected with the Rabies virus, there is no cure, death is the only end and cure the infected skunk can look forward to.

    The problem is, keeping the skunk from spreading the evil, before it dies.
    Thats why people put the infected skunk out of it’s misery when it is discovered to be Rabid.

    Someone needs to put the Rat’s skunk out of it’s misery for the benefit of humanity.

  2. Mary E says

    In the long run, the plan is for China to be THE economic partner of Iran – as it is very close to being now – and the US will never get another gallon of crude from Iran if China has anything to say about it….and it will, you can be sure of that. The US can just continue to frac its oil at a huge expense and say it has its own oil….that won’t last long! Because: There is Venezuela, the King of Oil reserves…another country that the US wants to destroy to get to its oil. Does the US educational system still teach
    ‘fair competition’ or is that all gone by the wayside and now it’s ‘get others’ resources as best you can and don’t look back? I believe the latter…the US has gone completely and totally Rogue and now its people will too because their government is their role model.

  3. Vish says

    What this Zero Hedge article carefully avoids addressing is what moral right does their American Empire have to dictate how other countries trade with each other in the first place?

    Unquestioned by ZeroHedge is the fraudulent nature of America’s sanctions of mass destruction on Iran based on pretexts like its supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction program–which are a replay of America’s pretexts and lies about Iraqi WMDs and the genocidal sanctions America imposed on Iraq in the 1990s, leading to the deaths of 100,000s of Iraqi civilians, particularly children.

    The fake alternative media like ZeroHedge is a Controlled Opposition media, which dutifully regurgitates the underlying propaganda narrative of the American regime, its scumbag spooks, and corporate media hacks–while trying to masquerade as an “alternative” to the mainstream.

    At base, the America Empire’s global dictatorship is based upon a fanatical belief its its God-given right to dictate and control the economic, political, and military policies of virtually every nation on this planet.

    America’s imperial power and ambitions are far more aggressive in its world-historical reach than Nazi Germany or even the British Empire, which spawned America in the first place.

    That is what America as a nation and people are about.

  4. Rowdy-Yates says

    Trump’s sanctions on Iran is for Israel’s benefit. Sanctioned nations should push for boycotting Israel’s exports. It is Israel who has the largest say in DC

  5. Pye Ian says

    Because pricing & trading oil in non-dollar terms between China, Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Turkey is wildly dangerous to the totality of already very brittle transatlantic finance.

  6. John Rourke says

    if people / or countries let you be the bully in the schoolyard, what do you expect?

  7. Promitheas Apollonious says

    it is a sad day when countries as russia and china let the americans and their patrons have their ways and not just simply to go f*ck off.

  8. jm74 says

    There is an even bigger price to pay for going along with the illegal US sanctions and the price is their freedom to be recognized, independent and sovereign and eventually the citizens will rise up and those traitors, neocons will have to confront their punishment. US is not the UN.

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