US will enforce Iran sanctions, but is ambiguous on exemption for Iraq

On Nov. 5, the US will start blocking exports from Iran’s energy sector, demanding such purchases end, while threatening to sanction countries that continue to import oil, related products from Iran.

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - Beginning on November 5, the US will start blocking exports from Iran’s energy sector, demanding that such purchases end, while threatening to sanction those countries that continue to import oil and related products from Iran.

A number of states, including Iraq, are seeking an exemption from such restrictions.

Asked by Kurdistan 24 to clarify the US position on Baghdad’s request for a sanctions waiver, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert replied, “We have conversations with many partners and allies around the world about those sanctions,” and “we make our policies very clear.”

“We continue to have conversations with the Government of Iraq about [that] particular issue,” she continued.

The US “is committed to re-enforcing all of our sanctions,” Nauert added. “We believe that countries coming together and recognizing the malign influence that Iran has had around the world is important.”

“That sounds like you’re saying no,” Kurdistan 24 suggested.

“I’m not forecasting anything,” Nauert responded, leaving unclear whether the US would grant Baghdad’s request.

The same issue exists with India, the second largest importer of Iranian oil, after China. On Monday, India’s Oil Minister revealed that two state refineries had placed orders for Iranian oil to be delivered in November.

Brian Hook, who was appointed the State Department’s Special Representative for Iran after the Trump administration withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal, left Washington on Wednesday for a week-long trip to India and then to Europe to discuss the new Iranian sanctions.

Asked about the consequences of India’s continued import of Iranian oil, Nauert noted that when the President was asked that question earlier in the day, he had responded, “We’ll take care of that.”

Trump’s answer was, of course, ambiguous, but generally, the US is inclined to provide sanctions waivers, where the country in question is making a serious effort to reduce its import of Iranian oil. However, it is unclear, if Iraq or India has done so.

The issue of hostile Iranian activities may soon become much more acute.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that there is “growing anxiety in France, Germany, and several other countries,” including the US and Israel, that “Iran is planning audacious terrorist attacks.”

It quoted an unidentified Middle Eastern intelligence official that there had been a “definite uptick” in the activities of Iranian intelligence operatives outside the country and “the Iranians are preparing themselves for the possibility of conflict.”

The Post also cited unnamed officials as saying that Iran “has recruited people from Pakistan,” as well as “Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, North Africa and Afghanistan “to obscure” its role in espionage and terrorism.