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Saudi Arabia should expect Iran to 'play hardball' at OPEC's next meeting

  • Global oil supplies were already tightening ahead of the U.S. president's decision to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord on Tuesday.
  • "I think it is hard to believe that there won't be some gamesmanship the next time that we gather in Vienna in June," Andy Critchlow, head of EMEA energy content at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC Wednesday.
  • Alongside Russia and other allied partners, OPEC is in the midst of a production-cutting deal designed to curb a global supply overhang and prop up prices.
Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia's energy minister and president of OPEC, speaks during a news conference following the 172nd Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, May 25, 2017.
Akos Stiller | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Khalid Bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia's energy minister and president of OPEC, speaks during a news conference following the 172nd Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday, May 25, 2017.

President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is likely to exacerbate tensions between two of the world's biggest oil producers at next month's OPEC meeting, one analyst told CNBC Wednesday.

Global oil supplies were already tightening ahead of the U.S. president's decision to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord on Tuesday, while crude futures have since soared to multi-year highs.

Yet, in a move that defied pleas from close allies, Trump said he would seek to re-impose economic sanctions on Tehran, elevating concerns about the future of the supply-cutting deal between OPEC members and allies including Russia.

"I think it is hard to believe that there won't be some gamesmanship the next time that we gather in Vienna in June," Andy Critchlow, head of EMEA energy content at S&P Global Platts, told CNBC Wednesday.

"Is it really in (Iran's) interest now to sign up to a Saudi-led Russian deal to extend these cuts? Of course, the high oil price suits Saudi Arabia … But the Iranians can think 'now we will play the long game' and play hardball here," he added.

Oil prices 'on a path to $80 a barrel'

Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh.
Heinz-Peter Bader | Reuters
Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zangeneh.

Alongside Russia and other allied partners, OPEC is in the midst of a production-cutting deal designed to curb a global supply overhang and prop up prices.

The output controls have widely been viewed as a success, with several major global producers honing in on achieving their original aim of reducing industrialized oil nations' back to their five-year average.

Ahead of Trump's decision to impose fresh sanctions on Tehran, analysts had warned it could wipe out up to 1 million barrels per day of Iranian crude exports and heighten geopolitical tensions in the Middle East — estimated to be the home of around one-third of the world's daily oil supply.

In response, Saudi Arabia quickly sought to try to offset any potential slump in production levels as a result of the looming sanctions. State news agency SPA reported the kingdom would work with major producers and consumers within and outside OPEC to limit the impact the prospect of a supply shortage.

OPEC next meets to review output policy in Vienna on June 23. The cartel is widely expected to continue with its supply-cutting deal until at least the end of 2018.

"While it is still early days, the return to the sanctions era will reinforce upward price pressures and put Brent on a path to $80 a barrel," Stephen Brennock, oil analyst at PVM Oil Associates, said in a research note published Wednesday.

Global benchmark Brent traded at $76.94 on Wednesday afternoon, notching highs not seen since late 2014, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) stood at $70.95.