LONDON — As the United States wages a very public battle against Iran’s quest for nuclear power, Washington quietly is gaining ground on another energy front: the oilfields that are the Islamic republic’s lifeblood.
Iran’s oil industry has raked in record amounts of cash during three years of high oil prices. But a new U.S. campaign to dry up financing for oil and natural gas development poses a threat to the republic’s ability to continue exporting oil over the next two decades, many analysts say.
The campaign comes at a moment of unique vulnerability for Iran’s oil industry, which also faces challenges from rising domestic energy consumption, international isolation, a populist spending spree by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and trouble closing contracts with foreign oil companies – a recipe for potential disaster in a nation with one of the world’s largest reservoirs of oil.
“If the government does not control the consumption of oil products in Iran, … and at the same time, if the projects for increasing the capacity of the oil and protection of the oil wells will not happen, within 10 years there will not be any oil for export,” Muhammad Hadi Nejad-Hoseinian, Iran’s deputy oil minister for international affairs, said in a telephone interview.