WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Friday it will temporarily allow eight importers to keep buying Iranian oil when it reimposes sanctions on Monday to try to force Iran to curb its nuclear, missile and regional activities.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who announced the decision, did not name the eight, which he referred to as “jurisdictions,” a term that might include importers such as Taiwan which the United States does not regard as a country.
However, he said that the European Union as a whole, which has 28 members, would not receive a waiver.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said Turkey had been told it would be granted a waiver. India, Iraq and South Korea were also on the list, said a source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. Under U.S. law, such exceptions can only be granted for up to 180 days.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said Washington had told the Brussels-based SWIFT financial messaging service that it was expected to disconnect all Iranian financial institutions that the United States plans to blacklist as of Monday. He declined to name the targeted institutions.
The restoration of sanctions is part of a wider effort by U.S. President Donald Trump to force Iran to curb its nuclear and missile programs as well as its support for proxy forces in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.
Trump set in motion the resumption of sanctions on May 8, when he announced U.S. withdrawal from a 2015 deal between Iran and world powers under which Tehran had agreed to curtail its nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions.
“This part of the campaign is aimed at depriving the regime of the revenues it uses to spread death and destruction around the world, Pompeo said. “Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlier activities and behave as a normal country.”
Pompeo said Washington will issue temporary waivers to the eight Iran oil importers “only because they have demonstrated significant reductions in their crude oil and cooperation on many other fronts.”
Two would stop imports and the other six would greatly reduce them, Pompeo said.
Iran said it was not troubled over the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions, which target not only its vital oil and gas sector but also shipping, ship-building and banking industries.
“America will not be able to carry out any measure against our great and brave nation … We have the knowledge and the capability to manage the country’s economic affairs,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told state TV.
The United States believes global oil supplies will exceed demand next year, making it easier for countries to cut Iranian oil imports to zero, a senior U.S. official told reporters.
Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, also said Saudi Arabia had been “very helpful” in bolstering oil supplies while the United States moved to reimpose sanctions.
Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, Patricia Zengerle, Lesley Wroughton; Additional reporting by Henning Gloystein in SINGAPORE, Aizhu Chen in BEIJING and Dmitry Zhdannikov in London; Hyonhee Shin in SEOUL, Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO, Gulsen Solaker in ANKARA and Parisa Hafezi in DUBAI; Editing by Susan Thomas and Grant McCool