- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said waivers could be granted to countries that need Iranian oil amid the Trump administration’s escalating effort to throttle Tehran by re-imposing strict U.S. sanctions later this year.

“There will be a handful of countries that come to the United States and ask for relief from that,” Mr. Pompeo said on Tuesday during a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates. “We’ll consider it.”

Recent weeks have seen an escalating battle of wills between Tehran and Washington over Iran’s oil exports.

Since withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, U.S. officials have aggressively pursued a campaign to try to shut down Iran’s most critical export, saying it wanted all of Iran’s energy customers to find new suppliers by early November. China, India, South Korea and Turkey, which all rely on Iranian crude, have voiced frustration over the moves.

Last week, the conflict sent oil prices surging to their highest point in three years as a leading Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander said Tehran would block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the U.S. followed through on its threats.

For weeks Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has also scrambled around the globe to try and save the nuclear accord, negotiated by the Obama administration to curb Tehran’s nuclear programs in exchange for the easing of international economic sanctions.

Last week, in a move some regional observers characterize as an act of desperation, Mr. Rouhani visited Vienna, where the agreement was drawn up. He was there to promote its survival but ultimately dismissed a bailout package offered by the accord’s other signatories — China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany.

The reimposed U.S. sanctions have also already caused several leading multinationals working in Iran to announce they are shutting down their work there.

Mr. Pompeo’s remarks on Tuesday, which he delivered while speaking on Sky News Arabia, were the first time a senior Trump administration official addressed the possibility of U.S. sanctions being waived.

He also warned Iran that any threat to disrupt Mideast oil supplies would be met by America and its Gulf Arab allies — in addition to stressing that any country not granted a waiver would still face significant penalties.

“Come November 4th, there will be a U.S. sanction that prevents crude oil from passing from Iran to other countries,” he said. “It will be sanctionable activity. We will enforce those sanctions.”

While U.S. officials have said they are confident global oil supplies are robust enough to replace Iranian output, industry analysts are undecided as to whether the world could accommodate a total cut-off Tehran’s 2.4 billion barrel a day output.

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