Wednesday, April 14, 2010

China to sell gasoline to Iran

Dana Milbank, in the Washington Post Wednesday, launched a scathing attack against President Obama for restricting media access to the nuclear summit this week:
"World leaders arriving in Washington for President Obama's Nuclear Security Summit must have felt for a moment that they had been transported to Soviet-era Moscow... Obama -- occupant of an office once informally known as 'leader of the free world' -- [put] on a clinic for some of the world's greatest dictators in how to circumvent a free press.

The only part of the summit, other than a post-meeting news conference, that was visible to the public was Obama's eight-minute opening statement, which ended with the words: "I'm going to ask that we take a few moments to allow the press to exit before our first session."
Nevertheless, one of the advantages of limiting media access to various high level meetings, including the nuclear summit in Washington this week, is that the President is afforded the opportunity to offer his own spin on current events because the media has no way of disproving his rhetoric.

Case in point: The New York Daily News on Wednesday reported as follows:
A day after the White House announced Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed to cooperate with the drafting of sanctions against Iran, it was clear China had not made a total commitment to squeezing Tehran.

Hu has agreed only to send negotiators to New York for talks aimed at crafting economic sanctions, [but he remains concerned about keeping the oil China buys from Iran flowing].
Moreover, China is apparently moving to fill the void left by European suppliers, who halted gasoline sales to Iran earlier this year:
A state-owned Chinese refiner plans to ship 30,000 metric tons of gasoline to Iran after European traders halted shipments ahead of possible new UN sanctions, according to Singapore ship brokers.

Beijing has growing commercial and political ties with Iran and has resisted US pressure for sanctions to press Tehran to abandon its nuclear program. Chinese officials say the country is entitled to energy trade...

A deputy Chinese foreign minister, Cui Tiankai said Tuesday that... Iran's legitimate right to have energy trade with other countries should not be undermined as the world pursues a settlement of the nuclear standoff. Beijing's position on energy could make it more difficult for the United States and China to resolve differences on Iran...

President Barack Obama is having difficulty getting agreement on a new set of UN sanctions. He said Tuesday that his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, assured him that Beijing would participate in drafting sessions at the United Nations on strong sanctions...
Similarly, Reuters reported today as follows:
A Chinese state oil company has sold two cargoes of gasoline to Iran, industry sources said on Wednesday, underlying Beijing's distaste for any sanctions on Tehran that could damage economic ties...

State-run Chinaoil appeared undeterred [by the proposed sanctions], selling a total of about 600,000 barrels of gasoline worth around $55 million to the Islamic Republic, the industry sources said.

The cargoes were Chinaoil's first direct sales to Iran since at least January 2009, according to Reuters data. Chinese firms have previously sold through intermediaries, traders said.

"As long as there is money to be made, and economic benefits to be taken advantage of, Iran will always find ready sellers of gasoline from the international market," a trader said. "The politicians don't understand markets ...SANCTIONS ARE COSMETIC."...

Another Chinese company, Sinopec, is also poised to sell gasoline to Iran for the first time in six years, trade sources said, and Iran appeared confident it could weather any storm.

"We have no problem to meet the country's petroleum demand ... We are familiar with sanctions and sanctions will have no impact on our oil industry," the SHANA news agency quoted Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi as saying on Wednesday.
And so, the question arises: Is the Chinese government outfoxing Obama? Or is Obama outfoxing the American public?


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