President Trump Ends Iran Oil Waivers to Drive Tehran’s Exports to Zero

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Gas flares burn from pipes aboard an offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf’s Salman Oil Field, operated by the National Iranian Offshore Oil Co., near Lavan island, Iran, on Thursday, Jan. 5. 2017. Photographer: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg


China, India and Turkey had been expecting to receive a renewed waiver to continue to buy Iran’s oil – AIWA! NO!

US to sanction nations for importing Iranian oil — including allies

The Trump administration won’t renew waivers that let countries buy Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions, according to four people familiar with the matter, a move that roiled energy markets and risks upsetting major importers such as China and India.

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo planned to announce the decision Monday morning in Washington, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing a plan that hasn’t been formally unveiled. The current set of waivers — issued to China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — expire May 2.

The administration will also announce commitments from other suppliers, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that will offset the loss of Iranian crude on the market, according to two of the people.

The decision not to renew the waivers is a victory for National Security Advisor John Bolton and his allies who had argued that the U.S. promises to get tough on Iran were meaningless with waivers still in place. Pompeo and his team had been more cautious, though they also maintained that the market was well-enough supplied to ramp up pressure on Iran.


The Magnitsky sanctions proposed in Canada’s Senate provide an opportunity to push for an end to Tehran’s human rights violations

“The maximum pressure campaign could not be maximalist until the administration cut off Iran’s oil exports,” said Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive officer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a supporter of additional sanctions on Iran. “With this decision, Iran’s economy will be under severe pressure as its hard currency earnings dry up and its foreign exchange reserves plummet.”

Oil Rises

The price of Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, rose as much as 3.3 percent to $74.31 a barrel on Monday, the highest intraday price in almost six months.

The State Department declined to comment Sunday night. One of the people said that President Donald Trump had briefed Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and U.A.E. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed on the decision in phone calls in the last few days. The U.S. decision was reported earlier by the Washington Post.

For more on the U.S. Iran oil waivers:  Trump Team Divided Over Iran Oil Waivers as Deadline Nears Oil Jumps as U.S. Is Said to End Iran Waivers After May 2 Expiry Iran Oil Buyers Stay on Sidelines as Waiver Decision Looms

Japan and South Korea, two of the U.S.’s closest allies and long-time buyers of Iranian crude, said they were aware of the reports about the waivers but didn’t confirm the decision. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said Monday in Tokyo that the government had kept in close contact with the U.S. and expressed the view that “there should be no damage to the activities of Japanese companies.”

China’s foreign ministry in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for comment Monday. The nation is the biggest buyer of Iranian crude.

Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers almost a year ago and revived a range of sanctions against Iran and any countries doing business with the Islamic Republic. But he and his top advisers have been wary of disrupting energy markets and spurring a hike in U.S. pump prices. For that reason, they allowed waivers for Iran’s biggest buyers of crude, including China, India and Turkey.

One of the people said that some of the countries that had previously received waivers would be given a little more time to wind down purchases. The person described that not as a waiver but more as a brief grace period.

Zero Exports

Bolton and officials in the Energy Department have argued that it’s time for the administration to make good on its desire to push Iran’s oil exports to zero. While Pompeo’s team, led by Iran special representative Brian Hook, cautioned that a sudden removal of Iranian crude from the market — about 1.1 million barrels a day — could fuel volatility and lead to a price spike.

“We certainly aren’t looking to grant any exceptions or waivers,” Hook said in an interview this month with Kevin Cirilli on Bloomberg Radio’s “Sound On.” Oil markets are better supplied this year than last, and that “puts us in a better position to accelerate the path to zero,” he said.

The administration had also faced growing pressure from Iran hawks in the Senate, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, to cut waivers to zero. Some senators had threatened to hold up administration nominees if the waivers stayed in place and argued that continuing to grant exemptions would be a direct contradiction of the Trump administration’s decision to leave the Iran deal.

The risk now is the decision could spike crude prices just as Trump begins to gear up to campaign for a second term. His administration had been wary of doing anything that could push crude prices above $70 a barrel.

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Trump says Saudi prince ‘totally denied any knowledge’ of what happened at consulate in Turkey regarding journalist’s disappearance

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Oct. 16 to discuss the disappearance of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. 

Jamal Kashoggi and fiance

|AIWA! NO!| Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Saudi leaders Tuesday to move quickly with a “transparent” investigation of the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, even as Turkish officials sifted through possible evidence at the last place the journalist was seen alive.

Some areas have been repainted at the Saudi consulate where missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen alive, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said, as investigators prepared to enter the nearby Saudi consul’s house after the diplomat left the country.

Erdoğan told reporters on Tuesday that police had found evidence of toxic materials and signs that some surfaces had been repainted at the consulate where investigators say the missing journalist was killed.

“My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over,” he said.

Turkish officials have asserted that a Saudi hit team killed Khashoggi earlier this month after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. On Monday, forensic experts had their first chance to comb the site, and they now plan to expand the searches to diplomatic vehicles and the main residence.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered an operation to lure Washington Post contributing journalist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia where he was to be detained, U.S. intercepts show. The whole torture, dismemberment, and death inside the Saudi embassy thing that apparently happened was a rendition gone bad, according to this report.

From Shane Harris at the Washington Post, whose reporting is based on descriptions of U.S. intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan:

The intelligence pointing to a plan to detain Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia has fueled speculation by officials and analysts in multiple countries that what transpired at the consulate was a backup plan to capture Khashoggi that may have gone wrong.

A former U.S. intelligence official — who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter — noted that the details of the operation, which involved sending two teams totaling 15 men, in two private aircraft arriving and departing Turkey at different times, bore the hallmarks of a “rendition,” in which someone is extralegally removed from one country and deposited for interrogation in another.

But Turkish officials have concluded that whatever the intent of the operation, Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate. Investigators have not found his body, but Turkish officials have released video surveillance footage of Khashoggi entering the consulate on the afternoon of Oct. 2. There is no footage that shows him leaving, they said.

The intelligence about Saudi Arabia’s earlier plans to detain Khashoggi have raised questions about whether the Trump administration should have warned the journalist that he might be in danger.

Intelligence agencies have a “duty to warn” people who might be kidnapped, seriously injured or killed, according to 2015 federal directive. “The obligation applies regardless of whether the person is a U.S. citizen. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident,” Harris writes.