A senior State department official has been traveling the world with a message for European and Asian countries: Cut imports of Iranian oil to zero by the Trump administration’s November deadline, or face US sanctions.
On a call with reporters on Tuesday, the official, who could not be identified by name under the call’s rules, said, “Over the past few weeks, I've been in Europe and Asia garnering support for our Iran strategy. … We're gonna isolate streams of Iranian funding.”
The United States, the official said, is pushing its allies to cut Iranian oil imports to zero. Asked if there will be waivers for those that don’t, the official said, “We view this as one of our top national security priorities. I would be hesitant to say zero waivers ever. I think the predisposition would be to say we're not granting waivers.”
European officials, who have watched major European companies leave Iran since President Donald Trump left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran nuclear deal, know that the bigger question for Tehran, and the one to which it needs a positive answer if it is to stay in the deal, is whether Iran is able to preserve its oil exports. The State Department seems keen to make sure it can't.
That doesn’t go only for US’s European allies, but for India and China, the main importers of Iranian oil. “We are asking them to go to zero,” said the official, who added that their companies will be subject to sanctions if they don't. That plan could run counter to the Department of Commerce’s 2017 prediction that India would be a major market for US oil and gas equipment and services. So, too, is it unclear how, exactly, sanctions on Chinese oil companies would impact US oil services groups operating in China, like Baker Hughes or Halliburton.
They have till Nov. 4. “They should be reducing now," the official said. "That's what we've been telling them in our bilateral meetings.”