U.S. To Sanction Iranian Oil Buyers Without Exception

31 May 2019

The United States will sanction any country that tries to buy Iranian oil after the sanction waivers expired on May 2, regardless of whether said country had reached its negotiated cap under the exemptions, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said, clarifying earlier comments that resulted in speculation that the U.S. would allow countries that hadn’t reached their cap of Iranian imports to continue buying oil from Iran until they reach that cap.

“Our firm policy is to completely zero out purchases of Iranian oil — period,” Hook told Bloomberg News in a statement on Thursday.

“Any new purchases of oil initiated after the expiration of the SREs [significant reduction exceptions] on May 2 will be subject to U.S. sanctions, even if a country had not met its previously negotiated purchase caps during the SRE period from November to May 2.”

“Any new purchases of oil initiated after the expiration of the SREs [significant reduction exceptions] on May 2 will be subject to U.S. sanctions, even if a country had not met its previously negotiated purchase caps during the SRE period from November to May 2.”

Hook’s comments came after remarks he made earlier on Thursday in a press briefing in which he said:

“And so once people have reached that cap of what was negotiated during that period that then would be the limit of the oil that we would permit to move through that would not be sanctioned. We will sanction any efforts to import Iranian crude oil beyond the limits that were negotiated in the period that ran from November through May.”

Those remarks led to speculation, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that countries that hadn’t reached their negotiated cap under the waiver period could be able to continue buying Iranian oil without risking sanctions until they reach that limit.

After the U.S. removed all sanction waivers for Iranian oil customers, Iran’s oil exports are estimated to have plunged to 400,000 bpd in May— which is less than half of Iranian oil exports in April.

Earlier this week, reports emerged that India plans to immediately begin negotiations with Iran to pay in rupees for Iranian oil to bypass U.S. sanctions.