Trump administration to reimpose sanctions on Iran

Oil exporters among 700 companies, individuals, vessels, aircraft set for US blacklist

September 25th, 2018: US president Donald Trump has addressed the UN general assembly, calling on other nations to "isolate Iran's regime." Video: The White House

 

Senior US officials have warned that Washington will next week reimpose all sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Obama administration after the 2015 nuclear agreement.

President Donald Trump, since breaking that deal in May, has vowed to cut off Iranian oil revenue completely, and oil exporters and tankers will be among 700 companies, individuals, vessels and aircraft that will be added to a US sanctions blacklist on Monday.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said that eight “jurisdictions” would be granted temporary waivers after Monday’s sanctions deadline, but only on the understanding that they would stop or drastically reduce oil imports in the coming weeks.

Mr Pompeo did not name the countries to be exempted, except to say the European Union was not among them. He did not say whether individual European countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain might be granted waivers.

Money from sales to the exempted countries would be kept in accounts outside Iran, and could only be spent on humanitarian supplies or approved goods.

A joint statement from EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign and finance ministers of the UK, France and Germany said they deeply regretted the reimposition of US sanctions.

“We have committed to work on – the preservation and maintenance of effective financial channels with Iran, and the continuation of Iran’s export of oil and gas,” the statement said.

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin also announced that Swift, the private financial messaging service that allows banks to communicate securely, would also be subject to sanctions. “We have advised Swift that it must disconnect any Iranian financial institution that we designate as soon as technically feasible to avoid sanctions exposure,” Mr Mnuchin said.

A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran. File photograph: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters
A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran. File photograph: Raheb Homavandi/Reuters

Mr Pompeo said on Friday that the sanctions were “aimed at depriving the regime of the revenues that it uses to spread death and destruction around the world”.

He told reporters: “Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country.” Mr Pompeo pointed to Iranian missile development and its involvement in conflicts across the Middle East, as well support for terrorism and assassinations of dissidents in Europe.

The administration has insisted the sanctions were aimed at changing Tehran’s behaviour, rather than regime change. Mr Pompeo said: “Every effort is aimed at giving the Iranian people the government that they not only want but deserve.”

Since May, when Mr Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran’s crude oil exports have dropped by about a third, or about a million barrels a day, a far deeper impact than had generally been expected.

“Back in May, many of us thought that the Trump administration would get a reduction of 500,000 barrels a day. Reducing is bigger than we would have predicted,” said Peter Harrell, a former senior state department official involved with sanctions and now a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security think-tank.

Mr Harrell said the administration was concerned not to drive up oil prices with its sanctions against Iran. He added it was pacing its actions to cut off the flow of crude oil according to the pace of additional supplies of oil expected to come on the market from Russia, the US and Saudi Arabia early next year.

Mr Pompeo said that, despite the waivers expected to be granted on Monday, the Trump administration was still focused on eliminating Iranian oil revenue altogether.

“We expect to issue some temporary allotments to eight jurisdictions but only because they have demonstrated significant reductions in crude oil and co-operation on many other fronts and have made important moves to getting to zero crude oil importation,” the secretary of state said. “These negotiations are still ongoing.” – Guardian