The Iranian regime warned Brazil on Tuesday that it may suffer economic “consequences” after state-run oil company Petrobras refused to refuel two Iranian ships stranded off the South American coast.
Petrobras confirmed on Wednesday that they had refused to refuel two Iranian ships loaded with corn in Port Paranaguá along the country’s East Coast, arguing that they were in violation of U.S. sanctions against the regime.
The move comes days after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro indicated that he may toughen his position towards Iran to appease the Trump administration in the hope of expanding trade ties between the two countries. He also said he had warned Brazilian oil companies they may face reprisal from the U.S. if they continue dealing with Iran in violation of sanctions.
“I am getting very close to Trump, I was received twice by him. It is the number one economy in the world, our second-largest market, and now Brazil has its arms open to doing deals and partnerships,” Bolsonaro said on Sunday. “But there are certain things where it isn’t necessary to converse. We are aligned with their policies. So we do what we have to.”
On Tuesday, Iran’s Ambassador in Brasilia Seyed Ali Saghaeyan said he had warned local officials that Tehran would find new suppliers for the $2 billion a year worth of goods they import from the South American country. Iran remains Brazil’s largest buyer of corn and is also among their top buyers of soybeans and beef.
“I told the Brazilians that they should solve the issue, not the Iranians,” said Saghaeyan. “If it’s not solved, maybe the authorities in Tehran may want to take some decision because this is a free market and other countries are available … Independent and big countries like Brazil and Iran should work together without interference from any third party or country.”
Under the left-wing administrations that preceded Bolsonaro, Brazil developed close trade and diplomatic ties to Iran, with the South American nation enjoying a significant trade surplus through exports. Yet as noted by state propaganda outlet PressTV, Bolsonaro’s conservative worldview and desire for strong relations with the U.S. and Israel have created “hiccups in maintaining constructive cooperation.”
The Bolsonaro administration should also be well aware of the threat posed to their country’s national security through Iran’s alliances with communist regimes including Cuba and Venezuela, as well as the growing presence of its terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, across the region. There remains growing concern among Brazilian producers that following U.S. sanctions could damage their businesses and the country’s economy as a whole.