WASHINGTON — The Trump administration vowed to stick with its pressure campaign against Iran on Monday, affirming its strategy to change Tehran’s behavior by gutting its oil revenue and isolating the country globally.
“Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue on crude-oil sales,” said Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, at a briefing with reporters.
He also suggested, however, that there would be some legroom with other countries that import Iranian oil from avoiding immediate sanctions, once they are set to be re-imposed come November 4.
“We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis, but as with our other sanctions, we are not looking to grant waivers or licenses,” Hook said, in comments that were seen as a softening of the United States’ prior demands.
These moves follow US President Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known, as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which removed sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
The accord, forged during the Obama administration, is still being honored by the other signatories, such as Russia, Germany, France, the UK and China.
Despite the space Washington is prepared to grant these and other nations working with Iran, Hook insisted the Trump administration would not provide exemptions and was intent with fully charging forward with its current plan.
Notable countries that import Iranian crude include Turkey, India, China and South Korea.
Since a State Department official first told reporters on June 26 that the US was preparing to ask allies to cut their oil imports from Iran, the US market took a hit, with US crude jumping more than 8 percent.
Trump subsequently expressed concern about oil prices last week, announcing in a tweet that he and King Salman of Saudi Arabia had agreed to raise daily oil production by 2 million barrels.
Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference…Prices to high! He has agreed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 30, 2018
“Prices [too] high!” he said. “He has agreed!” It is not clear when that agreement will begin implementation.
Hook said he is heading to Vienna in the coming days to meet with European diplomats and ask them to push harder against Iran’s support for terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, and it’s continuing development of ballistic missiles.