US budges in Iran oil sanctions drive, says waivers possible

Press TV – The United States has made a surprise revelation that could suggest its campaign to bring down Iran’s oil exports to zero is based on ‘miscalculations’ – as Iran had earlier warned.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted by media as saying that Washington would in certain cases consider waivers for countries that plan to purchase Iran’s oil after the sanctions against the country would come into effect.

The decision, Mnuchin added, would be meant to avoid disruptions in oil markets when sanctions against purchases of Iran’s oil came into effect.

“We want people to reduce oil purchases to zero, but in certain cases if people can’t do that overnight, we’ll consider exceptions,” Mnuchin was quoted as saying by CNBC. He made the remarks en route to Mexico on Friday but his comments were embargoed for release until Monday, CNBC added.

His views, nevertheless, contradicted those by other US officials that had said there would be no exemptions for purchases of Iranian oil.

In May, Trump announced that he would pull America out of a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and re-impose the sanctions that the deal had envisaged to be lifted.

He has already emphasized that the sanctions which would be imposed on Iran would be “at the highest level”.

The sanctions would include a universal ban on Iran over buying or acquiring US dollars which will come into force in August as well as restrictions over purchases of crude oil from the country and investing in its oil sector projects which will become effective by the start of November.

The US administration is pressing Saudi Arabia and some other OPEC members to fill in any supply gap that will arise when US sanctions curtail Iranian crude exports. However, speculations have already been emerging that cutting off Iran’s oil supplies without creating new tensions in markets is easier said than done.

Reuters in a recent report quoted estimates by the International Energy Agency (IEA) as showing that the US could not rely on Saudi Arabia for too long to make up for the missing Iranian oil supplies once American sanctions are re-imposed against the country.

Reuters also highlighted speculations by experts that showed the kingdom could only pump more to fill Iran’s gap in oil market only for a certain period.

Iran has also questioned in its own terms the viability of US sanctions against its oil exports by saying that President Donald Trump’s anticipation that certain oil producers can fill the market gap created as a result of cutting off Iranian supplies is based on a “miscalculation”.

Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, Iran’s representative to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), earlier told Bloomberg that Trump had fallen into a ‘trap’ that certain oil producers had created by “pretending” that they can make up for missing Iranian barrels.

“Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Russia pretended to be able to deliver 2.5 million barrels a day of Iranian exports,” Kazempour Ardebili was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

“That was a miscalculation, Mr. President: you have fallen in their trap, and prices will go up,” he was quoted as addressing President Trump.

Iran has warned that Trump’s struggles to sanction Iran’s oil purchases would push up crude oil prices to as high as $100 per barrel and beyond.

Iran has also warned that the US president was wrong to believe that Saudi Arabia and Russia would help reduce oil prices, adding that both key global producers had little vested interest in bringing down the prices.

Kazempour Ardebili was recently quoted by media as saying that Trump had in fact made the US a hostage to Russia and Saudi Arabia as a result of his campaign to undermine Iran’s oil exports, stressing that the US, itself, would feel the heat from sanctioning Iran’s oil sales when American consumers realize that they have to pay more at gas stations.