More OPEC Members Joining Iran's Camp
(FNA)- As more and more OPEC members voice support for Iran's views, Iraq also stepped in to form a strengthening alliance with its Eastern Persian neighbor, rather than approaching its Arab partners in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
As more and more OPEC members come to support Iran's views in the oil cartel, Venezuela - backed by other members like Iran, Iraq and Algeria - proposed that the group should protest against the EU sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program.
The move was rebuffed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Riyadh is determined to prevent the group's growing alliance with Iran.
The meeting showed that Iraq has now joined the Iran camp, whose members are clearly coordinating their positions on key aspects of OPEC policy. Earlier this month, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi visited Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and during the visit it was announced that the two had agreed to adopt a unified position on OPEC production.
That raised the specter of an oil alliance between Iran and Iraq, which could challenge the Saudi bloc comprising a few Persian Gulf Arab states.
While the West-backed Saudis came to the meeting looking to increase production to make crude more affordable for the western states, Iran could harness the Saudi move. Ministers gathered Thursday, with several suggesting the 12-member Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would opt to keep the present ceiling of 30 million barrels a day. That would be a victory for Iran over Saudi Arabia.
At Thursday's meeting, OPEC ministers agreed to leave their current production ceiling unchanged at 30 million barrels a day. The group's secretary-general Abdalla El-Badri said members were asked to adhere more strictly to the target, which they now exceed by 1.6 mb/d according to OPEC's own figures, mainly due to excess production by Saudi Arabia.
The meeting took place against the backdrop of a sharp drop in oil prices, from a peak of $128 a barrel in March to below $100 now. Some countries, principally Iran, have said the market is over-supplied and have called on Saudi Arabia to cut production.
But so far the kingdom shows no inclination to comply. It has been pumping crude at 30-year highs this year in an attempt to bring prices down to $100.
In another manifestation of their rivalries, both Iran and the Saudis are fielding candidates for the post of OPEC secretary general, to be filled in December when Abdullah Al-Badry of Libya retires. But Ecuador also is in the race, along with Iraq.
Iran which now holds presidency over the oil cartel is seen to have a much bigger chance to win the post.