Benjamin Netanyahu and Mike Pompeo meet at UN Security Council, September 26, 2018.
(photo credit: GPO PHOTO DEPARTMENT)
The United States on Monday said it will next month eliminate all waivers granted to eight economies that have allowed them to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions, as it ratcheted up pressure to choke off all oil revenues to the Islamic Republic.
The move was immediately praised by Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a “very important” decision “to increase pressure on the Iranian terrorist regime.”
“We stand by the determination of the United States against Iranian aggression and this is the right way to stop it,” the statement read.
Netanyahu, who is visiting Capernaum with his wife, Sara, said: “This is the way to confront Iranian aggression, this is the way to prevent it,” according to the Prime Minister's Office said.
Acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz said, “Only tough steps like this will force the ayatollahs in Iran to completely stop developing the dangerous nuclear program and support Hezbollah and the other terrorist organizations in the region.”
Israel, he said, “will continue to be the United States’ loyal partner in the struggle against Iranian aggression.”
The decision by Trump has sent oil prices to their highest level in 2019, even though the White House said the US was working with top OPEC exporter Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ensure the oil market is “adequately supplied.”
The sanctions were imposed as Washington pressed Iran to curtail its nuclear program and stop backing militant proxies across the Middle East.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday reiterated that Washington’s goal was to bring down exports of Iranian oil to zero, and added the United States had no plans to give any grace period beyond May 1 for countries to comply.
“Today I am announcing that we will no longer grant any exemptions,” Pompeo said in a briefing. “We are going to zero. We’re going to zero across the board.”
The United States imposed sanctions in November on exports of Iranian oil after Trump unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and six world powers last May. Trump had frequently criticized the accord reached under predecessor Barack Obama as “the worst deal ever.”
Along with sanctions, Washington granted waivers to China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece that had reduced their purchases of Iranian oil, allowing them to continue buying it without incurring sanctions for six more months.
The US had been deliberating over the past couple of months whether or not to renew some of the waivers while avoiding a spike in oil and fuel prices that could hurt US consumers.
Iran’s exports have fallen to less than 1 million barrels per day from more than 2.5 million bpd before sanctions were reimposed a year ago.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members have cut supply dramatically. While the Saudis are expected to boost output again, analysts fear the US move – along with sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry – will leave the world with inadequate spare capacity.
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