Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader)
WASHINGTON – Rostam Qasemi, Iran’s petroleum minister, appeared last week at the
160th meeting of the OPEC conference in Vienna.
Though sanctioned by the
EU, the US and Australia because he ran Khatam al-Anbia, the Revolutionary
Guards’ main engineering arm, from 2007 until this past August, Austria
permitted Qasemi to enter Vienna to preside over the global oil
conference. Iran currently holds the chair of OPEC.
al-Anbia is one of Iran’s largest contractors in industrial and development
projects. In May, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran is
working on construction plans for intermediate-range missile launch pads for its
Venezuelan allies on the Paraguaná Peninsula of Venezuela. Khatam al-Anbia is
reported to be actively assisting on the project.
“What is unheard of in
the US and even on a EU level seems to be perfectly admissible and acceptable in
Austria. It is not only wrong but also quite disconcerting considering that
Vienna is hosting a [former] military commander who is under US and EU
sanctions,” Dr. Diana Gregor, a Vienna-based expert on Austrian-Iranian
relations, wrote The Jerusalem Post
“Austria is – time and
again – welcoming Iranian officials while other nations and entities are clearly
rejecting them and stating their reservations vis-à-vis the Iranian regime,”
Gregor, who has written about how to stop Iran’s bomb and has been at the
forefront of drawing attention to Austria’s Iran policy, added.
should not offer a stage to representatives of the Iranian regime, because
legitimizing the Iranian regime is sending the most inadequate signal. A travel
ban seems about the right start with regard to effective measures that can
quickly, easily and immediately be implement by Austria.”
Qasemi said in
Vienna that, in the event that sanctions result in a reduction of Iranian oil
exports, Saudi Arabia would not fill the gap.
The Saudi government
declined to comment on Qasemi’s remarks.
At a press conference in Tehran
this month, Qasemi said, “Our policy is [a] sustainable supply of oil to
Europe... Iran is a major oil producer and any sanctions on our oil export would
harm the global market,” Reuters reported.
He was skeptical about about
the EU plan to clamp down on Iranian oil imports to Europe.
Laster, the editor-in-chief of the Vienna-based online Jewish news site Die
Jüdische, wrote in an e-mail to the Post
, “While other states seek to apply
sanctions to Iran, Austria stays with its ‘Dialogue-Politics’ and allows the
representative of Iran into Austria.”
Laster, who was born in Israel and
served in the IDF, noted that the Austrian energy giant OMV was prepared to
engage in multi-billion dollar deals with Iran and other dictatorships. He
called Vienna’s policies “vague and opportunistic” and said they “sacrifice
Western interests in the name of neutrality.”
That neutrality is a smoke
screen for advancing Austrian business interests, particularly with the “mullahs
in Iran,” Laster said.