Countries that import oil from Iran will soon face new challenges, after the White House confirmed today that it will no longer approve sanctions waivers, as part of an ongoing campaign to put pressure on Iran.
The Trump Administration announced today that it will not renew waivers for five countries that have continued to import oil from Iran, despite ongoing sanctions from the United States.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that maximum pressure means maximum pressure, which is why the U.S. has decided to stop issuing exceptions to countries that import oil from Iran.
“Today I am announcing that we will no longer grant any exemptions. We’re going to zero, 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,” Pompeo said during a press conference.
Pompeo said the goal is to deprive Iran of the funds that it has used to “destabilize the Middle East for decades and to incentivize Iran to behave like a normal country.”
The countries currently relying on those exemptions are Japan, South Korea, Turkey, China and India. The waivers are set to expire on May 2nd, and in a statement, the White House claimed it is working with allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE to ensure that global oil markets have a sufficient supply to compensate for the loss.
Greece, Italy and Taiwan were also given waivers when the U.S. pulled out of its nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018, but they have since stopped importing oil from the targeted country. The other five recipients of waivers have requested extensions, and it remains to be seen how they will respond to the latest announcement.
This news comes weeks after the United States made the unprecedented move of labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Pompeo also said he can assure the rest of the world that President Trump will continue to ratchet up the pressure on Iran so that their behavior will change.
The U.S. has also been increasing pressure on Venezuela, and a report from Reuters cited anonymous sources to claim that Caracas is going around U.S. sanctions by funneling oil through Russia. Russian oil giant, Rosneft, has since fired back and denied the report, referring to its claims as “informational sabotage.”
Now it is still not clear whether the U.S. plans to place sanctions on the countries it previously gave waivers to, if they do not immediately stop importing oil from Iran, but one thing is clear—the U.S. appears to be following through on its promise to increase pressure, and it remains to be seen just how far Washington will take this conflict, and what the consequences will be.