Iranian oil minister moves to forge new regional partnerships

Ahead of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ (OPEC) ministerial meeting in Vienna Nov. 30-Dec. 1, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh expressed hope that production cuts that were agreed to last year would be extended.

What was at stake, however, was more than energy markets. Zanganeh and his counterparts, including Qataris, Saudis and Emiratis, met amid a delicate geopolitical situation. In light of regional competition that features economic blockades, proxy warfare and the exchange of public insults, the prospect of negotiating and subsequently enforcing a joint plan to shape global oil markets might have appeared unlikely. On the contrary, a deal was reached to maintain the production cuts without major obstacles. As in the previous year, though, an effective deal could only be realized through cooperation with non-OPEC energy giant Russia, which together with Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s leading producer, is bearing the brunt of cuts.

For Iran, the Russian-Saudi accord is somewhat of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Tehran is pleased with the outcome itself. On the other hand, it would certainly be alarmed if Russian-Saudi cooperation would extend to sensitive arenas where the two are at odds — including regional geopolitics.