US pledges to ‘starve’ Iran of means to finance destabilising activities
WASHINGTON – The leading importers of Iranian crude oil have received temporary waivers from sanctions the United States reinstated Monday morning, allowing them to continue buying Iranian petroleum products over an unspecified period, US officials said today.
Eight countries have been granted “temporary allotments” to continue importing Iranian crude oil, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. The eight countries are China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.
China and India are the two largest importers of Iranian oil, buying roughly 1 million barrels per day, which is more than half of the 1.8 million barrels that Iran exports, according to the US Energy Department. Italy, Japan and Turkey also are significant importers.
The United States also has agreed to allow Iran to continue building three nuclear reactors that produce energy for civilian use, including new reactors at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant. Allowing Iran to continue construction “for the time being will improve ongoing oversight of Iran’s civil nuclear program and will make these facilities less susceptible to illicit and illegal nuclear uses,” Pompeo said. “Rest assured, Iran will never come close to getting a nuclear weapon on President [Donald] Trump’s watch.”
“What we’ve authorized is very narrow, very limited, very time-limited as well,” Pompeo added. “But it’s important nonetheless that these nonproliferation projects are not things that are taking place without some ability to see what’s going on.”
The waivers to the eight countries were announced hours after the US reinstated broad sanctions on Iran’s energy, banking and shipping sectors aimed at increasing economic pressure on the Islamic Republic. The sanctions had been waived of lifted under a nuclear deal signed by President Barack Obama that sought to restrain Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.
Each of the eight countries “has already demonstrated significant reductions of their purchase of Iranian crude over the past six months,” Pompeo said, referring to when Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
All of the money Iran receives from oil sales to the eight countries will be reserved for humanitarian projects or for buying goods that are not subject to sanctions.
“There are certain transactions they can continue to do whether they’re humanitarian or specific trade in restricted accounts,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a news conference today alongside Pompeo. “We will make sure that humanitarian transactions are really going for those purposes. So, this is not about hurting the people of Iran. But we will not let money be diverted to humanitarian purposes and then be put for terrorist activities.”
In Iran, President Hasan Rohani was defiant, issuing a statement on the day the sanctions took effect saying,“Today, Iran is able to sell its oil and it will sell.”
In comments on state TV, according to the Associated Press, Rohani said, “We are in a way situation. We are in the economic war situation. We are confronting a bullying enemy. We have to stand to win.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi noted that some countries in Europe, including Russia, have opposed the sanctions and said that Iranians “have experienced more extensive sanctions” and that they are “not a new issue,” according to the AP.
But speaking today, Pompeo and Mnuchin said Iran’s economic has been severely damaged since May as more than 20 countries stopped all imports of Iranian crude oil. “The regime since May has lost more than $2.5 billion in oil revenue,” Pompeo said. “We continue negotiations to get all nations to zero” imports.
In addition to hitting Iran’s oil sector, the latest sanctions affect 50 Iranians banks and hundreds of Iranian airplanes and cargo ships, Mnuchin said. “We are watching the Iranian regime with laser focus. The maximum pressure exerted by the United States is only going to mount from here,” Mnuchin said. “Companies around the world need to know we will be strictly enforcing our sanctions.”
Added Pompeo: “Our objective is to starve the Iranian regime of the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilizing activities through the Middle East and indeed around the world. Our ultimate goal is to convince the regime to abandon its current revolutionary course.”