‘Winter is coming’: Iran tempts Europe with promise of cheaper gas in exchange for nuclear deal

Tehran has teased Europe anxious about an impending winter without access to Russian energy with the prospect of Iranian gas exports if Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers is reinstated and sanctions lifted.

‘Winter is coming,’ proclaimed Iran’s state-backed Mehr news agency, pointing the finger at European nations amid the prospect of cold temperatures, strains over heating gas supplies and fallout. resulting policies.

Tehran’s offer came as fears continued to grow across Europe of a desperate winter ahead, as Moscow uses its control of gas supplies to pressure capitals across the continent in retaliation. sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.

On Friday, energy giant Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled gas company, announced it was shutting down its Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline indefinitely due to “oil leaks”. The move was criticized, but it also meant gas prices jumped again on Monday, with benchmark prices up 31%, prompting new forecasts of energy rationing and blackouts. electricity across Europe this winter.

Although bringing more Iranian gas to world markets could help lower prices, experts have countered that Iran will not be able to meet Europe’s energy needs anytime soon, regardless of sanctions.

Iran and the United States, along with other world powers, are deadlocked over talks to reinstate a nuclear deal, which would remove restrictions on doing business with Iran and allow consumers to buy its gas.

Iran has the second largest natural gas reserves in the world after Russia. It shares a huge natural gas field with Qatar, which is increasingly one of Britain’s main suppliers. But Iran’s exports suffered after Donald Trump, during his presidency, reneged on a 2015 nuclear deal forged by his predecessor and reimposed a harsh economic blockade on Iran, which responded by increasing its stockpiles of enriched uranium.

The United States, Iran and international intermediaries including the United Kingdom searched for 18 months for a formula to return to the deal, but were hampered by apparent intransigence and distrust of Washington and Tehran.

Iran is now hoping that Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, and the subsequent halt to gas supplies that have heated homes and fueled industry in Europe for decades, could induce the European Union and the Kingdom United to pressure Washington to accept its terms.

“Given the crisis in Ukraine and Europe’s energy supply problems, if the nuclear talks are successful and the unilateral and illegal sanctions are lifted, the Islamic Republic of Iran will be able to respond to a greater part needs of Europe,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani. journalists in Tehran on Monday, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Iran has begun to increasingly link the nuclear deal to the energy crisis. “It will be difficult for Europeans more than anyone else” if the nuclear deal fails, Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to Tehran’s nuclear negotiating team, told Al Jazeera on Sunday. “Winter is coming, the weather is going to get colder, and they have a huge energy crisis and an economic crisis, and that could lead to major upheaval across the continent.”

He added: “Iran wants a deal, but the Europeans need a deal.”

A Russian construction worker talks on a mobile phone during a ceremony marking the opening of the Nord Stream gas pipeline in 2010

(AP)

Some experts have warned that Iran cannot meet Europe’s needs. Russia’s oil production and exports dwarf those of Iran, and it would take years of building pipelines to connect Iran and Europe.

“Iran cannot export gas to Europe,” wrote Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder and CEO of the economic news site Bourse and Bazaar, on Twitter.

Russia and Iran have become close trade and security partners, and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian recently made a last-minute trip to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. But it is still unclear whether the two nations are coordinating their energy strategy.

A return to the nuclear deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has been stalled amid wrangling over Iranian terms.

These would include guarantees from the United States not to reimpose sanctions if another administration takes power in Washington, and the closure of investigations by nuclear inspectors into Iran’s clandestine nuclear program before 2003, which would likely have included research and testing of weapons banned by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory.

Western leaders are scrambling to come up with plans to cut energy costs, protect families and businesses as well as protect against political instability caused by price inflation. Most of the interventions being considered involve price caps and loans, rather than finding alternative supplies.

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