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May 25, 2019
By Arul Louis
New York, April 22 (IANS) US President Donald Trump announced on Monday he is ending the waiver given to India to buy Iranian oil and Washington has threatened sanctions if New Delhi does not not comply with the embargo.
Announcing the end of the waivers in Washington, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “Trump has decided not to reissue Significant Reduction Exceptions (SREs) when they expire in early May.”
“This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later told reporters that the countries that do not abide by the embargo will face sanctions.
“Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its due diligence and err in the side of caution,” he said.
Ending the waiver is a disappointment for India, which had hoped for an extension of the exemption beyond May 2 when it is scheduled to end. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had discussed extending the waivers when he met with US officials in Washington last month for the India-US Strategic Dialogue.
When the US tightened sanctions on Iran in November, India and seven other countries were given the exemptions enabling them to continue buying oil.
Asked if there would be wind-down period for the countries to complete pending transactions after the waiver ends next week, neither Pompeo nor other US officials addressed it directly only repeating that the waivers end on May 2.
To soften the impact on countries that lose the waivers, he said: “We stand by our allies and partners as they transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives.”
The US is increasing oil production and working with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ensure that there is no disruptions in oil supplies as a result of ending of the waivers, he said.
However, oil prices surged with first indications on Sunday night that the waivers would end. Brent crude, which serves as the benchmark for oil prices, surged more than 2.5 per cent to nearly $74 per barrel — the highest in about six months — on Monday.
India was reportedly importing about 1.25 million tonnes of oil per month from Iran, about half of what it had been importing before the restrictions.
Nearly 10 per cent of the total of 220 million metric tonnes of crude oil India imported during 2017-18 came from Iran.
In May last year, Trump withdrew from the 2105 international agreement with Iran on de-nuclearisation that had ended sanctions on that country. When Trump re-imposed tough sanctions on Iran in November, he but gave six-month temporary waivers to continue buying oil to also China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece.
India’s vulnerability to US sanctions if it decides to continue buying Iranian oil will be through sanctions imposed on banks and oil tankers.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @arulouis)