Dubai's Iranians worry about EU sanctions

The BBC's James Reynolds visits Dubai where many people export goods to Iran

As the European Union decides to ban oil imports and impose other economic restrictions on Iran, the BBC's James Reynolds speaks to Iranians living in Dubai about the effects it could have on their livelihoods.

Dozens of black and grey sacks are lined up next to the edge of Dubai creek.

Workers pick up the sacks and pass them on to a battered boat.

On board, three men confer quietly - perhaps about the 15-hour trip they face to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

Anwar Etebari watches his workers. The sacks contain textiles that he is exporting to Iran, his native country.

"What do you think of the new sanctions against Iran?" I ask him.

Start Quote

If any limitation is set on the price of oil you can expect the oil price to go up. It's that simple”

End Quote Robin Amlot 'Banker Middle East' magazine

A reflection bounces off his sunglasses as he struggles to reply in English. "Big problem," he says.

In broken sentences, he explains that financial sanctions imposed by both the United States and the European Union will make it more difficult for even legitimate Iranian businesses to operate.

Alternative market

All along Dubai creek, dozens of ships are ready to take goods to Iran.

About a third of Dubai's population originates from Iran - many keep close ties to their homeland.

Their ships export refrigerators and cars to Iran. They work as a supply line and a lifeline to the Iranian state.

In Dubai, the influence of Iran is clear.

Well after midnight, the Shiraz Nights restaurant serves Iranian lamb kebabs.

Workers at Dubai Creek Iranians both inside and outside the country are uncertain how the sanctions will affect them

In the day, many stroll along the creek. Further out lie the open waters of the Gulf itself.

Iran exports its oil through these waters. The export of oil helps the Iranian government stay in both money and power.

Now Iran must find an alternative market for the oil it has sold to Europe.

In turn, Europe must find new sources of oil to make up for the crude that it used to import from Iran.

This may cause problems.

"If any limitation is set on the price of oil you can expect the oil price to go up," says Robin Amlot, Managing Editor of 'Banker Middle East' magazine in Dubai. "It's that simple."

It is a point made also made by Iran.

"The European countries should be sure that Iran's oil will not remain without a consumer, but the psychological effects of Europe's decision will lead to a sharp increase in crude oil prices in world markets," Iran's former oil minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh has told Iran's Mehr news agency.

But this warning conceals the difficulties that Iran now faces.

Citizens inside Iran appear uncertain of the effect of the new sanctions. In recent months their currency has lost much of it value against the dollar. Reports suggest that some have decided to stockpile provisions in case life gets worse.

Iran's guaranteed income from its most valuable asset - its oil - is now in question. Its tankers in the Gulf which once headed to Europe will now have to find somewhere else to go.

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