WASHINGTON – The Trump administration announced Friday that it is exempting eight countries from the bloody sanctions that the United States has re-imposed on Iran. They undercut their promise to economically punish Tehran's regional aggression while spreading a deep gulf with its European allies.
State Secretary Mike Pompeo has not identified the eight countries that have been granted exceptions for six months, but one senior official confirmed that they are India, South Korea, Japan and China – the largest importers of Iranian oils in the world.
Mr Pompeo said that the European Union, which recently announced the creation of an economic channel to continue its financial relations with Iran, is not one of the beneficiaries of disclaimers.
The sanctions were promised in May when President Trump announced that the United States had withdrawn from a treaty with the world powers in 2015 to restrict the Iranian nuclear program.
They were confirmed on Friday, the eve of a long-awaited deadline for November 5, when nations need to stop importing Iranian goods or impose fines, and days ahead of the crucial midterm elections in which the Trump government supports the Republicans trying to support him. torn foreign policy.
Mr Pompeo said that the exemptions had been granted to the eight countries "just because they have shown a significant reduction in their crude oil and cooperation on many other fronts." He said that two of the eight countries had expected to import their Iranian oil imports within a few months And all have to apply for exceptions again after six months.
South Korea and China are crucial to maintaining pressure on North Korea to reduce its nuclear weapons – another priority for the Trump administration. After the liberation of South Korea, Mr. Trump could not deny the demands of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whom the President has often referred to as the Asian head of state with whom he has the largest rapport.
And India, like China, will probably never stop importing Iranian oil; The exceptions help "avoid what might be a very painful confrontation," said Peter Harrell, a sanctioning expert during the Obama administration. He said the waivers also helped keep oil prices in check before the Tuesday elections.
"What happened with maximum pressure?" United Against Nuclear Iran, an anti-Iran group led by ex-Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, wrote on Twitter as an answer on the exemptions of the administration. "They gave in. Big time."
The sanctions – and the lack of exceptions for European allies – threaten to worsen the already strained transatlantic relations in a dangerous way. Most major European companies have relied on Iran in recent months to face the looming penalties, but European diplomats on Friday vowed to continue their efforts to protect legitimate trade with Tehran.
"Our collective decision to complete this work is unshakeable," diplomats from the European Union, Britain, France and Germany said in a statement.
Iran remains part of the nuclear agreement that it negotiated in 2015 with the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. International inspectors have concluded that Tehran is adhering to the agreement by not developing nuclear weapons, and European officials said the agreement is crucial for their national security.
R. Nicholas Burns, a high-ranking diplomat in the administration of President George W. Bush, said it was a big mistake to impose sanctions on countries because they were part of an agreement that helped the United States negotiate.
"We still need these countries on other important issues, such as North Korea and Russia," Burns said.
Many sanctions, which were originally lifted under the nuclear agreement, affect more than 700 companies, individuals and other companies active in the Iranian oil, banking, shipping, shipping and insurance sectors. They come into force on Monday and were announced jointly by Mr Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday.
According to officials and experts, the Iranian currency, the Rial, has lost more than two-thirds of its value since the United States threw it overboard, and the country's oil exports are running daily from 2.5 million barrels to 1.5 Million barrels fell.
The sentences are intended to force Tehran to end what the US calls destabilizing Iran's activities in the Middle East, including support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The sanctions are aimed at "removing from the regime the revenue it uses to spread death and destruction around the world," Pompeo said.
Shortly after announcing the new sanctions against Iran – and the waivers – Mr. Trump tweeted a poster of himself with the words "Sanctions are coming," using the font of the HBO show Game of Thrones. The Words are a Game According to a well-known phrase from the show, "Winter is Coming," it is an imminent frozen state when an army of magical warriors will leave the North to wipe out all the kingdoms.
Richard Nephew, a top sanction official of the Obama administration, called Mr. Trump's tweet "honestly disgusting" because Iranian citizens are being burdened with economic sanctions.
"Please take that seriously, please" Mr. Nephew tweeted back,
The Iranian leaders have insisted that they have no intention of rewarding Mr Trump's decision to leave the nuclear agreement by acceding to his demands or even opening a dialogue. Only this week, Danish authorities accused Iran of attempting to assassinate an Arab separatist leader living in Denmark.
In one Tweet last monthForeign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from Iran described US sanctions against his country as "total disregard for the rule of law and the human rights of a whole people".
It is unclear whether Tehran will be able to do so while its economy is suffering. Iran made some of its most aggressive regional moves during the last round of sanctions between 2012 and 2015.
Spontaneous protests in Iran have occurred in recent weeks among groups that have long been reliable supporters of the Islamic Republic, and public opinion may have turned against the relatively moderate governments of the government. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had endorsed the nuclear deal as a means of improving the economy of his country.
The most recent sanctions are the second and final round of sanctions suspended under the 2015 agreement. The first sentence was reintroduced in August, targeting transactions with Iran involving US dollar banknotes, gold, precious metals, aluminum, steel, passenger aircraft and coal.
Mr Mnuchin defended the government's decision not to directly impose sanctions on the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a Belgian-based financial services company based in Swift. Conservatives have insisted that Swift must be punished if Iranian banks are not expelled from their network.
"It is our intention that they cut off certain units as before," Mr. Mnuchin said of Swift.
Mr Pompeo said that the eight countries that were given waivers would pay for Iranian oil exclusively through a barter system. Iran does not have to be paid in cash to limit the country's ability to use oil sales to finance military activities.
Mr Pompeo also said that the list of exemptions was much smaller than that of the 20 states exempted from American sanctions under President Barack Obama.
Peace groups denounced the sanctions as "the last step in a calculated White House campaign to provoke a war with Iran," said Paul Kawika Martin of Peace Action.
Friday's announcement is part of Mr. Trump's enthusiastic willingness to support biting economic instruments, including tariffs and sanctions, to achieve his foreign policy goals. However, the US sanctions against Russia, Venezuela and North Korea have so far brought few tangible victories.