Here are the reasons for why we're seeing such a remarkable turnaround -- and how much it actually matters.
Earlier this week, North Korea canceled its 1953 armistice with the South, offering a vivid and no-doubt intentional reminder of how nuclear weapons can turn localized conflicts into the subject of intense global anxiety. Luckily, events from late last week made a Middle Eastern repeat of the Korean peninsula's ongoing nuclear nightmare slightly less likely. And considering the stakes involved -- stability in the Middle East and the survival of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, for starters -- even a slight decrease in its likelihood is welcome news.
A week ago, Reuters reported that one of India's biggest state-owned oil refineries, and the country's largest single purchaser of Iranian oil, is dramatically cutting back on its imports thanks to the now total lack of companies now willing to insure Iranian oil shipments. The refinery purchased five million metric tons of Iranian oil last year, meaning that a third of India's projected oil trade with Iran is now in jeopardy. U.S. and EU sanctions have narrowed the space for commerce with the Islamic Republic to the point where even one of the most reluctant participants in the sanctions regime has no choice but to continue scaling down its oil purchases. "As sanctions tighten, the room to maneuver for Iran and its trading partners continues to shrink," explains Trevor Houser, an expert on energy-related issued for the Rhodium Group, in discussing the latest Indian reductions. "The number of workarounds and loopholes that you can exploit gets smaller and smaller, and you have a growing number of unintended consequences like this."