The new US sanctions covering the sale to Iran of refined oil products including gasoline and jet oil, which President Barak Obama signed into law Friday, July 2, have gone into action, debkafile's Iranian and military sources report. Monday, July 5, Mehdi Aliyari, secretary of Iranian Airlines Union, said airports in Britain, Germany, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates had refused to refuel Iranian passenger planes. He said the cutoff affected the national carrier Iran Air and the biggest Iranian private airline Mahan Air, both of which operate several flights to Europe.
The next day, Iran's foreign ministry denied this statement, indicating some confusion in Tehran.
However, following the first statement, a spokeswoman of the oil giant BP said "we will comply with any international sanctions that are imposed. And that goes also for the new round of US sanctions following a decision by Congress." Around Friday, BP sent faxes to its refueling operations in some European countries, including those owned with partners, ordering a ban on refueling for several Iranian airlines, including Iran Air.
BP is under US pressure over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The fuel cutoff comes in the middle of the summer holiday rush to and from Iran, forcing holiday-makers to resort to the few foreign airlines putting into Tehran for their overseas flights.
Tehranis particularly put out by the refusal of the United Arab Emirates' international airport in Dubai to provide fueling services. It is a transit hub for the many of millions of Iranians who fly to Persian Gulf and Middle East destinations. So central is this facility to Iran's international air connections that it has two terminals, one for ordinary traffic and one just for Iranian flights.
Pervez Sorouri, a lawmaker and member of Iranian parliament's committee on foreign policy and national security, warned Tehran would take retaliatory action for these sanctions, especially towards the United Arab Emirates. An Abu Dhabi Airports Company spokeswoman later denied it had stopped supplying Iranian jets with fuel.
The UK's Civil Aviation Authority reacted to the Iranian statement by saying this move would be down to individual fuel companies and Germany's Transport Ministry would not comment on whether individual providers were refusing to fuel Iranian aircraft.
Both commented that US sanctions prohibit the sale to Iran of refined petroleum products worth more than $5 million over a year and were being careful not to exceed this amount.
But all three were clearly prompted by the Iranian threat of retaliation to issue equivocal statements about their actions.
According to debkafile, the Iranian man in the street will very soon feel the rough edge of the new American measures. The cost of foreign air travel will very shortly shoot up, along with domestic flights which are the lifeline of business activity in the country. The rising price of gasoline is bound to affect food prices; so too will soaring insurance rates for shipping fuel and other merchandize to the Islamic Republic.
Since Friday, Iranian leaders have been telling the public that the new US sanctions will not affect their lives and their government has set up alternative arrangements to bypass them. But they will now have a hard time explaining away penalties that affect the life of every individual and family.
Saturday, after learning its passenger flights would be denied fuel, Iran's leaders held an emergency conference to decide how to react. When President Obama signed the new sanctions Friday, our Iranian sources reported that Tehran was bound to retaliate – either against oil shipping bound for the US, Europe and the Far East from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf – with immediate effect on world oil prices – or some other means.
For debkafile's report on the first Iranian threats in response to the new US sanctions, click here