May not extend waiver for buyers of Iranian oil: US
The US has sought to increase pressure on Iran by warning it is “not looking” to extend waivers on sanctions that apply to eight countries buying Iranian crude, including India, once they end on May 2.
The exemptions were granted in November when the US rolled out the second phase of sanctions re-imposed after President Donald Trump’s decision to walk out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal. These sanctions are more severe than the ones imposed in 2017.
“We are not looking to grant any exceptions to our campaign of maximum economic pressure,” Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, said while responding to a question on extending the waivers during a briefing on the Trump administration’s Iran strategy on Tuesday.
He argued the exemptions were granted in view of “a very tight and fragile oil market” in 2018, and because the US didn’t want to drive up prices by creating new demand for non-Iranian crude.
There was no official response from the Indian government to Hook’s remarks.
India’s purchase of Iranian crude has figured in recent discussions between Indian and American officials, including foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale’s interactions during his three-day visit to the US in March, people familiar with developments in New Delhi said.
New Delhi’s position on the matter will be shaped on the basis of the country’s energy security and national interests, the people said without going into details.
They added that Hook’s remarks appeared to be aimed at increasing pressure on Iran and might not reflect the final position. US negotiators had taken a similar tough position in talks leading up to the November sanctions, but had later agreed to exemptions against significant reductions in imports.
Last November, the US granted waivers, called significant reduction exemptions (SREs), to India, China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan, Italy and Greece from the secondary impact of sanctions for six months to enable them to cut their import of Iranian crude to zero in a phased manner.
Italy, Greece and Taiwan have reportedly stopped buying Iranian oil and experts believe the US is likely to extend the waivers for the five other countries while stepping up efforts to cap Iran’s crude exports to about 1.1 million barrels a day.
Experts also believe more pressure on Iran, coupled with the disruption of oil supplies from Venezuela, could drive up prices.