On Monday, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. would increase its pressure on Iran by cracking down on countries that import Iranian oil.
Last year, the Trump administration provided sanction waivers to several countries that purchased oil from Iran. But on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would not renew the waivers after they expire on May 2.
“Almost one year ago, after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump implemented the strongest pressure campaign in history against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The goal remains simple: to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilize the Middle East for four decades and incentivize Iran to behave like a normal country.”
Pompeo pointed out that Iran’s economy depends on its oil, with 40% of the regime’s revenue coming from oil sales.
“Our goal has been to get countries to cease importing Iranian oil entirely,” Pompeo said. “Last November, we granted exemptions from our sanctions to seven countries and to Taiwan. We did this to give our allies and partners to wean themselves off of Iranian oil, and to assure a well-supplied oil market.”
Pompeo then announced that no more exemptions would be granted.
“Today I am announcing that we will no longer grant any exemptions. We’re going to zero. We’re going to zero across the board. We will continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance, any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and air on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.”
Italy, Greece, and Taiwan have already ceased importing Iranian oil so no longer need the waivers, The Hill reports. The other waiver holders, China, India, Japan, Turkey, and South Korea, could be sanctioned if they do not stop importing Iranian oil by May 3.
China reportedly denounced the decision in a statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
“Our cooperation with Iran is open, transparent, lawful and legitimate, thus it should be respected,” Shuang said. “Our government is committed to upholding the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and will play a positive and constructive role in upholding the stability of global energy market.”
Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs also opposed the move on Twitter.
“The #US decision to end sanctions waivers on #Iran oil imports will not serve regional peace and stability, yet will harm Iranian people,” Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted. “#Turkey rejects unilateral sanctions and impositions on how to conduct relations with neighbors.”
To prevent a severe economic disruption, Pompeo said the U.S. has been assured by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that they will supply enough oil for the markets.
President Donald Trump also assured the public that Saudi Arabia and OPEC would make up the difference in a tweet Monday morning.
“Saudi Arabia and others in OPEC will more than make up the Oil Flow difference in our now Full Sanctions on Iranian Oil,” Trump tweeted. “Iran is being given VERY BAD advice by @JohnKerry and people who helped him lead the U.S. into the very bad Iran Nuclear Deal. Big violation of Logan Act?”
“Maximum pressure on the Iranian regime means maximum pressure. That’s why the U.S. will not issue any exceptions to Iranian oil importers. The global oil market remains well-supplied. We’re confident it will remain stable as jurisdictions transition away from Iranian crude,” Pompeo tweeted Monday.
Earlier this month, Iran designated the U.S. Central Command a terrorist group in retaliation for the U.S. naming Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. The Daily Wire reports:
The move will reportedly be the first time the U.S. has ever designated a branch of a foreign country’s military as a terrorist group.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the IRGC was founded toward the end of Iran’s 1979 revolution due to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s distrust of the Iranian military. Today, the organization numbers 125,000, is in charge of the country's ballistic missiles and nuclear programs, and has significant economic power.
The WSJ also reported that U.S. officials claim “national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been strong proponents of the move, which is intended to help the U.S. crackdown on businesses in Europe and elsewhere controlled by the IRGC.”