What's at Stake for Whom

At a Glance:

Map of Iran
Oil is responsible for roughly 85 percent of Iran's export revenue, between 40-50 percent of the Iranian government's budget, and between 10-20 percent of Iran's gross domestic product. Current statistics put Iran's proven oil reserves at 90 billion barrels, or roughly 9 percent of the world's total. Most of Iran's oil wealth is concentrated in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, only miles away from Iran's border with Iraq.

The Iranian government is counting on foreign investment to boost its oil production. Foreign investment in Iranian oil and gas operations currently amounts to US$12 billion, a figure Iranian ministers hope will double by 2005. Most Iranian oil currently flows to Asia, notably through the Japan National Oil Company and its subsidiaries, which have the contracts to develop some of southwestern Iran's most significant oil fields.


In 1995, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed executive orders prohibiting U.S. companies and their foreign subsidiaries from conducting business in Iran, and specifically any "contract for the financing of the development of petroleum resources located in Iran." The U.S. Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) of 1996 imposes mandatory and discretionary sanctions on non-U.S. companies investing more than US$20 million annually in Iranian oil and gas. As a result, U.S.-based oil giant Conoco has abrogated a US$550-million contract to develop two offshore oil and gas fields, leaving the door open to France's Total and Malaysia's Petronas oil companies. On Aug. 19, 1997, Executive Order 13059 reaffirmed that U.S. citizens are prohibited from virtually all trade and investment in Iran. In late July 2001, the U.S. Congress voted overwhelmingly to renew ILSA for five more years.

Population: 66,128,965 (July 2001 est.)
Industries: Petroleum, petrochemicals, textiles, cement, armaments.
Exports: $25 billion (2000 est.), 85 percent oil and gas.
Exports—Partners: Japan, Italy, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, France, China
Energy Production Exported: 60 percent
Oil and Gas Exported, in Dollars: $15.1 billion (1996 est.)

Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy, Economist Intelligence Unit, CIA World Factbook,