WASHINGTON – The White House officially announced its intention to end sanctions waivers on eight countries that are still trading oil with Iran, increasing the “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic. Current exemptions are set to expire in early May. “This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,” the White House said in a statement.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a news conference at the State Department on Monday that the US will not retract these sanctions until the Iranian regime changes its behavior.
“With the announcement today we made clear our seriousness of purpose,” he said. “We are going to zero. How long we remain at zero depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s senior leaders. We’ve made our demands very clear to the ayatollah and his cronies: End your pursuit of nuclear weapons, stop testing and proliferating ballistic missiles, stop sponsoring and committing terrorism.”
Pompeo told reporters the goal was “to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds that are used to destabilize the Middle East for four decades.” He said it was imperative to cut oil trading with Iran since it is the Islamic Republic’s largest source of income.
“Up to 40% of the regime’s revenue comes from oil sales,” he said. “It’s the regime’s number-one source of cash. The regime would have used that money to support terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and... continu[ed] missile development in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2131. Our goal has been to get countries to cease supporting Iranian oil entirely [since] last November.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted, “The Iranian regime should understand that it must change its behavior now or continue to pay the cost for its destabilizing behavior, which only hurts the Iranian people. Coupled with the recent designation of the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, today’s announcement should make the United States’ resolve abundantly clear to Tehran.”
The Trump administration also discussed with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other allies “ensuring that global oil markets remain adequately supplied,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders added. “We have agreed to take timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market.”
President Donald Trump tweeted on Monday, “Saudi Arabia and others in OPEC will more than make up the Oil Flow difference in our now Full Sanctions on Iranian Oil. Iran is being given very bad advice by John Kerry and people who helped him lead the US into the very bad Iran Nuclear Deal. Big violation of Logan Act?”
Pompeo said, “The United States has been in constant discussion with allies and partners to help them transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives.” He added that the United States would continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance by any nation or entity interacting with Iran.
“The risks are simply going to be worth the benefits,” he said.
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