WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has concluded that nearly half of Iran's monthly earnings from crude oil exports are accumulating in accounts overseas because of sanctions that restrict Tehran's access to the money.
The estimates, provided to The Associated Press by a senior U.S. official and never released before, are the latest indication that new sanctions imposed in February are deepening Iran's economic distress and making it increasingly difficult to access billions of dollars in vital oil revenues. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of sanctions policy.
The U.S. hopes the pressure will force Iran to compromise on its nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making a weapon. Iran insists it is for peaceful purposes only and has not budged on demands to halt uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make fuel for energy production or for a nuclear weapon.
The U.S. estimates that about $1.5 billion in crude oil revenues is piling up in restricted foreign accounts every month. Crude revenues overall averaged about $3.4 billion monthly in the first half of year, according to the assessment.
That means Iran is not able to either spend or repatriate about 44 percent of its crude oil income.
The February sanctions, which dealt one of the harshest blows to the Iranian economy in recent times, aimed at cutting off access to oil revenues. The sanctions require an already reduced pool of oil importers to pay into locked bank accounts that Iran may access only to purchase non-sanctioned goods in that country or humanitarian supplies.
If importers do not comply, they face the threat of being shut out of the U.S. financial system. The U.S. has granted sanctions exemptions to China, India and seven other countries to import Iranian oil. Only six are currently importing oil, according to the government.