Iran’s oil sector leadership is presenting a bullish front to the world, but the weight of international sanctions mean that grand ambitions are unlikely to be achieved. A $40bn agreement between the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom last month is the latest audacious example, and appears to be an entirely political contrivance.

Iran’s energy sector is crying out for foreign investment and expertise. So on the surface the Gazprom announcement was good news. Former oil minister Bijan Zanganeh previously said in 2018 that Iran’s oil and gas sector needed $200bn of investment, of which 65-75% ($130-150bn) would be from international firms (MEES, 9 February 2018). The return of US sanctions later that year put an end to foreign investment plans (MEES, 11 May 2018), and if anything their impact means that the investment needs have only increased since. (CONTINUED - 1148 WORDS)