US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in New Delhi on September 6 that Washington will consider granting waivers to Iranian oil buyers such as India.
However, he added that countries that obtain such a relaxation in the requirements must eventually halt all imports of crude from Iran as the US steps up its sanctions campaign against Tehran.
Some buyers of Iranian oil would take a “a little bit of time” to unwind their trade with Iran, Pompeo, in India with US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis for talks with counterparts, told a press briefing.
India is the second largest buyer of Iranian oil, behind China. Beijing has informed the US that it will only comply with UN-blessed sanctions directed at Iran. Previous reports have said New Delhi was pursuing waivers that would allow it to continue importing at least 50% of the Iranian oil it would normally expect to buy.
Until now, the US has played hardball with the oil sanctions that will be reimposed on Iran from November 5. Japan and South Korea, for instance, have reportedly given up on the idea of continuing to import Iranian crude having been refused waivers. The Trump administration has stated its determination to squeeze the Iranian economy until Iran’s leaders agree to talks at which the US will expect a renegotiation of the role the Islamic Republic plays in Middle East affairs.
“We will consider waivers where appropriate but it is our expectation that the purchases of Iranian crude oil will go to zero from every country or sanctions will be imposed. So we’ll work with the Indians, we committed that we will do that,” Pompeo said in further remarks.
In an earlier attempt at persuading India to give up Iranian oil imports, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on June 27 told India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Washington would back his country’s plan to develop the Iranian sea port of Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman to open up a trade route to Afghanistan that avoids its arch-rival Pakistan.
“We realise we’re threading a needle when we do that,” said Haley on a visit to India, describing the balancing act of ensuring Indian use of the Iranian port while the US simultaneously attempts to place Iran’s economy in a stranglehold.
On September 5, India’s ONGC Videsh said, with an eye on the snapback of US sanctions, that it had adopted a ‘wait and watch’ policy on investment in developing Iranian gas resources.