Iran finds another conspiracy: low oil prices

Oil prices for benchmark Brent crude, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), for the last six months, from the Financial Times, as of Oct 21, 2014.

Oct 21 (Reuters) – Iran has accused fellow Muslim countries in the Middle East of plotting with the West to bring down oil prices as a tactic to further undermine its sanctions-hit economy.

With oil losing a quarter of its value since June, President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has been scrambling for alternative sources of income to meet its forecast for revenue in the current budget based on an oil price of $100/barrel.

Speaking to conservative Shi’ite Muslim clerics in their stronghold of Qom late on Monday, government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said “some so-called Islamic countries in the region are serving the interests of America and (other) arrogant powers in trying to squeeze the Islamic Republic.”

“They (the West) have forced our oil production from 4 million bpd to 1 million bpd, and this recent fall of oil prices is their latest gimmick,” he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Mehr News.

The oil price slide has been attributed to oversupply, signs of weak demand growth and the apparent reluctance of Saudi Arabia and other key producers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut output to lift prices. Brent crude oil held near $86 a barrel on Tuesday, having tumbled from over $110 in June.

While Islamic hardliners in Iran have been quick to blame Riyadh for the price falls, Rouhani and his moderate government have been careful not to antagonise their fellow OPEC member and regional rival in the interest of better future ties…