Iranian Regime Defiant As Sanctions Return on Crucial Oil Exports

Patrick Goodenough | November 5, 2018 | 4:31am EST
Font Size
Toting 'Down with USA' signs and other anti-U.S. images, Iranians in Tehran mark the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy. (Photo: Office of the Supreme Leader)

( – Amid a show of Iranian defiance, the most significant set of U.S. sanctions that were eased as a result of the 2015 nuclear deal were being put back into place on Monday, a key piece in the Trump administration’s policy to diminish the threat posed by the regime.

Targeting the crucial energy and banking sectors, the restrictions will see the Treasury name 700 Iranian entities to be blocked – 400 that had been removed from the blocked entity list under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), plus 300 newcomers.

“Any financial institution, company, or individual who evades our sanctions risks losing access to the U.S. financial system and the ability to do business with the United States or U.S. companies,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a briefing Friday.

“We are intent on ensuring that global funds stop flowing to the coffers of the Iranian regime.”

Under the restored measures, any company doing business with Iran will be prohibited from doing business in the United States. And any U.S. company that trades with a company that is doing business in Iran will put itself at risk.

The move, 180 days after President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, comes one day before the midterm elections in the U.S., and one day after the regime in Tehran – a key target of the Trump administration – marks the 39th anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy.

President Hassan Rouhani hailed what state media called a “massive turnout” in support of the annual “National Day of Campaign against Global Arrogance,” telling a cabinet meeting late Sunday it showed that the Iranian people still have an “unbreakable bond” with the ideals of the Islamic revolution.

The day commemorates the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, which saw 52 Americans held hostage for 444 days.

Chants of “Death to the U.S.” and “Death to Israel” punctuated a rally in Tehran at which Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned Trump not to threaten Iran.

He told the gathering that U.S. “plots” in the form of reimposed sanctions “will fail with the help of Allah and the vigilant resistance of our people and officials.”

A day earlier, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech to students spoke about four decades of U.S. “hostility,” claiming that Iran has won every confrontation – “military, economic, and media warfare” – with the Americans.

“The U.S. is declining. Everyone should know this,” he said. “The U.S. is doomed to degradation and perishment [sic].”

“Never forget the U.S. animosity and do not be deceived by their smile,” Khamenei told his youthful audience. “Sometimes, they say they are not opposed to the Iranian nation, but to the Iranian government; they lie.”

Temporary exemptions

On Monday morning the administration will make further announcements regarding the reimposed sanctions, including the names of eight countries which have been given special temporary exemptions on the basis that they depend heavily on Iranian oil but have also already substantially cut back on importing it.

The countries getting the so-called “significant reduction exemption” (SRE) are believed to include India, Japan and South Korea.

The biggest importer of Iranian oil last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, was China, followed by India, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, France, Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Friday that two of the eight have agreed to completely end their exports while the other six “will import at greatly reduced levels.”

According to the administration’s Iran special representative Brian Hook, a country getting an oil import waiver will not be able to pay for the oil in hard currency, but will have to put the payment into an escrow account in one of its own banks, from which the Iranians would then be able to draw to pay for items not covered by sanctions, such as food and medicine.

Hook said the U.S. would monitor those escrow accounts closely to ensure Iran doesn’t use them to fund illicit activities.

One advocacy group not happy about the flagged SREs is United Against Nuclear Iran, which said Friday there should be no waivers or exceptions.

“The U.S. State Department recently labeled Iran an ‘Outlaw Regime.’ A campaign of maximum pressure is appropriate to deal with such a threat,” UANI said. “Countries and companies – particularly those friendly to the U.S. – should expect no exemptions.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also signaled that he’s not in favor of exemptions.

While congratulating the administration for moving ahead with the restoration of the sanctions, Cruz said, “Waivers that allow our allies and adversaries to enrich the regime by importing Iranian oil or to bolster Iran’s nuclear program through civil-nuclear cooperation should be sharply limited, and ultimately eliminated.”

Even before Monday’s restoration of sanctions – the second round after an initial one last August dealing with the gold, precious metal and automotive sectors – some of Europe’s leading companies announced their intention to withdraw from the Iranian market.

They include Daimler, Volkswagen, Siemens, BASF, Allianz and Maersk.

mrc merch