The possible lifting of sanctions against Iran as early as next year - setting the stage for the return of the country's oil exports - may spark a "price war" within OPEC as rival producers try to compete with heavily discounted crude offered by Tehran.
International sanctions aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program have more than halved the country's oil exports to about 1 million barrels a day since the beginning of 2012. But a recent thaw in relations with the West under a more moderate leadership led by President Hassan Rouhani who took office in August has raised expectations that the embargo may be rolled back.
Though this may free up oil exports only months later, some oil strategists warn it could add extra volume to an already saturated market, depressing prices and unsettling the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which pump more than a third of the world's oil.
"The market is currently 'missing' approximately 1 million barrels per day of Iranian oil, which is not actually needed in view of the ample supply in the oil market," Commerzbank strategist Barbara Lambrecht wrote in a report on Monday.