US Removes All Sanctions Waivers on Iran Oil to Get Imports ‘to Zero’

PM Netanyahu & US Secy. of State Pompeo. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of: Haim Zach / Israeli GPO

The United States says they are exerting a “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran and this week took their oil sanctions to the maximum by eliminating all waivers on imports of Iranian oil. The oil sanctions that took place last November initially had a set of waivers for seven countries and Taiwan, but as of May 2 no such waivers will be granted, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday. Any country importing Iranian oil will be at risk of US sanctions.

“Almost one year ago, after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump implemented the strongest pressure campaign in history against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in comments published by the State Department. “The goal remains simple: to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilize the Middle East for four decades, and incentivize Iran to behave like a normal country.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US for the significant step aiming to cut off Iran’s oil exports. “The decision of President Trump and the American administration to increase the sanctions against Iran is a decision of very great importance,” said Netanyahu on Monday in comments released by his office. “This is how to deal with Iran’s aggression and this is how to block it.”

Pompeo noted that oil exports are the top revenue stream for the Iranian regime—as much as 40 percent comes from the sale of oil—producing as much as $50 billion a year before the US sanctions took effect. Even with waivers, the US believes their overall sanctions have cost Iran more than $10 billion.

“Our goal has been to get countries to cease importing Iranian oil entirely,” said Pompeo, who noted the previous waivers were intended to allow US partners time to “wean themselves off of Iranian oil” and to ensure oil supply.

“We will no longer grant any exemptions. We’re going to zero—going to zero across the board,” said Pompeo. “We will continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance. Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.”

The timing works better for the world’s oil supply than last year, Pompeo said, pointing to increasing US oil production and also saying they have assurances from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to “ensure an appropriate supply for the markets.”

While Pompeo said the US would be fair when it comes to incidental Iran oil transactions, he emphasized the sanctions would be in full force. “If you don’t abide by this, there’ll be sanctions… We don’t lay out sanctions that we don’t have any intention of encouraging countries to cooperate with.”

Pompeo noted that the US isn’t alone in wanting to curb Iran’s destabilizing behavior, which includes pursuit of nuclear weapons, exporting terrorism, developing ballistic missiles and more.

“These demands are not just coming from the United States Government and many of our allies and partners. They are similar to what we hear from the Iranian people themselves. I want the Iranian people to know that we are listening to them and standing with them,” said Pompeo.

“…We built that enormous coalition to work on this, right. Gulf state partners, Israel, lots of countries that are working alongside us to achieve these objectives.”

In separate comments released by his office on Monday, Netanyahu noted that Israel supports the US increasing pressure on the “Iranian terrorist regime.”

Said Netanyahu, “We stand alongside the determination of the US against the Iranian aggression.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, April 24, 2019)

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