US to end waivers for Iranian oil imports

Later on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce that the US is ending its program of sanctions waivers to countries that are still importing oil from Iran.
author_image Laurie Mylroie

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – Later on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce that the US is ending its program of sanctions waivers to countries that are still importing oil from Iran.

In November, Washington announced that it would start imposing sanctions on countries buying oil from Iran following the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal six months earlier. At the time, the US granted 180 day waivers to eight countries. Three of those countries—Greece, Italy, and Taiwan—have cut their imports to zero, but Turkey, India, Japan and South Korea have continued to import Iranian oil.

Pompeo is expected to announce that those countries must end all imports of Iranian oil by May 2 or become subject to US sanctions, Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin reported on Sunday evening.

“A Turkish official has said the country is ‘expecting’ another waiver, but isn’t getting one,” Rogin wrote. There is a significant chance, it seems, this will soon become one more item in the growing list of issues straining ties between Washington and Ankara.

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Iraq has extensive economic relations with Iran, and Iraq has a US sanctions waiver—but it is for electricity rather than oil. Baghdad is dependent on Iranian electricity to meet the country’s needs, particularly in the summer, when demand soars.

Since November, Iraq has received successive 45-day waivers for importing Iranian electricity. It last received such a waiver on March 20, and it seems likely to continue to receive such waivers.

Cognizant of the delicate political balance in Baghdad and the strength of the pro-Iranian factions in parliament, Washington has seemed more focused of late on countering Iranian-backed militias in Iraq than in monitoring its trade with Iran.

Related Article: US warns Iran's IRGC-backed militias in Iraq

The decision to end the oil waivers was now taken as more oil has become available on international markets, US officials say. Moreover, the tougher steps against Iran are being coordinated with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are to increase their own oil production.

US officials aim to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero. Their publicly stated goal is not to overthrow the Iranian regime, but to oblige Tehran to change its policies and return to the negotiating table to discuss a new, much more restrictive deal.

Nonetheless, last Monday, when Pompeo met with a small group of Iranian-Americans in Texas, he told them, “Our best interest is a non-revolutionary set of leaders leading Iran.”

Tehran is clearly hurting from the measures that the Trump administration has taken. Since last year, Iranian oil exports have dropped by more than half.

Oil prices rose by 2% in Asian markets on Monday morning, to their November 2018 levels, following news of the US decision to end the sanctions waivers, Reuters reported.

Editing by Nadia Riva