Press TV – The United States has announced exemptions to new sanctions imposed on Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), easing foreign dealings with the elite military force, which Washington blacklisted earlier this month.
Under the waivers outlined by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in two notices on Wednesday, foreign governments and businesses that have dealings with the IRGC and its affiliates will not be subject to a ban on US travel.
Pompeo said in the notices published in the Federal Register that he decided to waive the travel bans in US foreign policy and national security interests.
The exceptions would allow those who work with the US in Iraq and Lebanon to maintain their relations with the IRGC without fear of repercussions.
Earlier this month, the US designated the IRGC as a “foreign terrorist group,” making the elite Iranian military force the first agency of a foreign government that has ever been blacklisted.
Under US immigration law, foreigners found to have provided designated foreign “terrorist” organizations with “material support” can be banned from the US.
The designation of IRGC has raised fears that American diplomats and troops might have to end contacts with officials in countries that have ties with Iran or the IRGC.
In one notice, Pompeo said the sanctions “shall not apply to any ministry, department, agency, division, or other group or subgroup within any foreign government” unless that entity is covered by existing US sanctions.
In the second notice, he said the sanctions won’t apply “to any business, organization, or group, whether public or private, solely based on its provision of material support to any foreign government sub-entity that has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization.”
On Monday, Reuters quoted three current and three former US officials as saying that the US had backtracked on its earlier threat against those who have dealings with the IRGC, saying they would not necessarily be denied US visas or automatically face sanctions.
Iran responded to the IRGC’s blacklisting by designating the American forces in West Asia — known as CENTCOM — as terrorists.
Washington’s decision has also sparked global criticisms, with many countries arguing that blacklisting another country’s military forces violates in international regulations.
Critics inside the US have also warned the administration of President Donald Trump about the ramifications of the move for US forces in the Middle East.
‘US might grant waivers from oil bans again’
The new US exemptions came two days after the White House said US President Donald Trump has decided not to re-issue waivers that allow eight countries to buy Iranian oil without facing US sanctions when they expire in May.
However, congressional aides and outside advisers familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Washington might still reconsider the decision, the Associated Press reported.
Under one scenario being considered by the US administration, buyers of Iranian oil could be allowed to place and pay for future orders before May 2, essentially front-loading continued imports, they said.
Washington could then grant waivers from sanctions to transport and refine the oil under a 2012 law.
The US State Department declined to comment on the possibility that Iranian oil imports might continue without sanctions.
Trump had earlier vowed to reduce Tehran’s oil revenue to “zero.”
Iran has, however, vowed to use its decades of experience with US bans and go around the new ones.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said the US administration’s hostile attempts to block Iran’s oil sales will lead nowhere, and that the country will export “as much crude as it needs and wishes” in defiance of American sanctions.
Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh also said Washington will never be able to achieve its “dream” of cutting Tehran’s oil exports to “zero.”
China and Turkey, which are two major customers of Iranian crude, have severely censured the US decision to end sanctions waivers, saying they would not bow to US pressure. India has said it will try to comply but is hoping for a workaround.
Oil prices, earlier this week, hit their highest level since November 2018 in the aftermath of Washington’s decision to end exemptions from sanctions for the countries buying oil from Iran.