US President Donald Trump and Iran exchanged sharp words over oil prices on Wednesday, with Trump blaming OPEC for high oil prices and Tehran accusing him of stoking volatility after he withdrew last month from a global nuclear arms deal with Iran.
Trump sparked the latest back-and-forth when he renewed his attack on OPEC in a tweet that said oil prices are too high and that the cartel was “at it again.”
Oil prices have risen by around 60 percent over the last year after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and some non-OPEC producers, including Russia, started reducing supplies in 2017.
The group meets on June 22-23 in Vienna, and producers are seen as likely to raise production, perhaps before the limits are due to sunset at year-end.
Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, fired back quickly at Trump’s words. “You cannot place sanctions on two OPEC founder members and still blame OPEC for oil price volatility,” he said in a statement to Reuters, referring to his country and Venezuela. “This is business, Mr. President - we thought you knew it.”
The oil supply deal is set to continue through the end of 2018, but plans for its continuation were unclear. The calculus changed after Trump announced in May that the United States was pulling out of the 2015 deal that restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the removal of sanctions.
The US move has put pressure on European and Asian clients to stop importing Iranian oil or doing business with the country.
The price of Brent crude peaked in May at $80.50 a barrel, then pulled back, trading on Wednesday near $76 at barrel, partly in anticipation that the Opec deal may end.
“Oil prices are too high, OPEC is at it again. Not good!” Trump wrote in his post on Twitter after last raising the issue in April.
Trump sent out his tweet hours after returning to Washington from a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. It was not immediately clear what prompted his comment.