The United States on Monday restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transportation industries, while temporarily allowing top oil customers such as China and India to keep buying crude from the Islamic Republic, Reuters reports.
Washington has pledged to eventually halt all purchases of crude oil from Iran globally but for now it said eight countries — China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey — can continue imports without penalty.
Crude exports contribute one-third of Iran’s government revenues.
“More than 20 importing nations have zeroed out their imports of crude oil already, taking more than 1 million barrels of crude per day off the market,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in a briefing.
“The regime to date since May has lost over 2.5 billion dollars in oil revenue.”
Pompeo said waivers were issued to countries that have already cut purchases of Iranian crude over the past six months, and to “ensure a well-supplied oil market.”
The exceptions are designed to last 180 days.
US officials have said the countries given temporary exemptions will deposit revenue in escrow accounts for Tehran to use solely for humanitarian purposes.
After abandoning a 2015 Iran nuclear deal, US President Donald Trump is trying to cripple Iran’s oil-dependent economy and force Tehran to quash its nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile program, and its support for militant proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.
Trump, however, was going slow on the sanctions, citing concerns about causing global price spikes.
“I could get the Iran oil down to zero immediately but it would cause a shock to the market. I don’t want to lift oil prices,” Trump told reporters before flying to a US midterm elections campaign event.
Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran will continue to sell its oil despite Washington’s “economic war.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said US “bullying” is backfiring by making Washington more isolated.
The sanctions also cover 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 people and vessels in its shipping sector, Tehran’s national airline, Iran Air, and more than 65 of its aircraft, Reuters said in its report, citing a US Treasury statement.
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