Washington to subject all countries importing Iranian oil to US sanctions

The move is intended to further ramp up economic pressure on Iran

In a move intended to further ramp up pressure on Iran by strangling the revenue it gets from oil exports, The US State Department is poised to tell five nations, including allies Japan, South Korea and Turkey, that they will no longer be exempt from US sanctions if they continue to import oil from the Islamic country. The plans to not renew sanctions waivers for the five countries when they expire on 2 May are expected to be announced today by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The other countries no longer exempt would be China and India.

"The goal of the policy is to drive up the costs of Iran's malign behavior and more strongly address the broad range of threats to peace and security their regime presents," a State Department official told the Washington Post on Sunday.

Thus, it is not immediately clear if any of the five would be given additional time to wind down their purchases or if they would be subject to US sanctions on 3 May if they do not immediately halt imports of Iranian oil.

The decision, however, comes after Washington granted eight oil sanctions waivers when it re-imposed sanctions on Iran after Trump pulled the US out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. They were granted in part to give those countries more time to find alternate energy sources but also to prevent a shock to global oil markets from the sudden removal of Iranian crude. Since November, three of the eight - Italy, Greece and Taiwan - have stopped importing oil from Iran. The other five, however, have not, and have lobbied for their waivers to be extended.

NATO ally Turkey has made perhaps the most public case for an extension, with senior officials telling their US counterparts that Iranian oil is critical to meeting their country’s energy needs. They have also made the case that as a neighbor of Iran, Turkey cannot be expected to completely close its economy to Iranian goods.

In reaction to the administration’s move and expectations of tightening supply, early trading on Monday indicated Benchmark Brent crude oil futures rose by as much as 3.2 percent to $74.31 a barrel, the highest since Nov. 1, Reuters reports.

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