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June 11, 2012

US Pressures Iran With More Sanctions Waivers

by Dan Robinson

THE WHITE HOUSE - The United States announced additional exceptions from U.S. financial sanctions on Iran Monday. These exemptions will go to countries that have significantly reduced their imports of Iranian oil.

In a written statement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear the latest exceptions are aimed at placing additional pressure on Iran's government to address global concerns about its nuclear program.

The United States, European Union and other nations believe Iran's nuclear program is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon. Tehran says its activities are for peaceful civilian energy and medical purposes.

The P5+1 group of nations - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany - are due to resume negotiations with Iran next week in Moscow.  

Under Monday's announcement, six countries - India, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Turkey - plus Taiwan are exempted from U.S. sanctions for having significantly reduced the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran.

Japan and 10 European Union nations received similar exemptions in March, and thus will also not be affected by U.S. sanctions that can be imposed beginning June 28. Under legislation Congress passed last year, exemptions last for 180 days and are renewable.

Senior administration officials say the exemptions are part of a "steady and methodical phasing in" of sanctions targeting Iran's financial sector, including its central bank.

Defense authorization legislation passed by Congress requires President Barack Obama to report to lawmakers every six months on how global oil supplies are being impacted by a reduction in crude oil from Iran.

President Obama has made two determinations that the world market has a sufficient supply from countries other than Iran to permit a significant reduction in petroleum and products purchased from Iran by or through foreign financial institutions. Senior administration officials say the intensification of sanctions has had a significant impact on the Iranian government's ability to obtain revenue through petroleum sales.

One official cited International Energy Agency figures that Iran's daily oil exports have declined over the last year by about 700,000 barrels - from 2.5 million barrels a day to between 1.2 million and 1.8 million barrels.

China, whose cooperation with global pressure on Iran is crucial, has not been granted a waiver.  

A senior administration official said discussions have continued with China, which he called a "very important partner" in the P5+1 process.

The official said China has been committed to working to help prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. This includes Beijing's commitment to a dual-track approach of engagement and pressure.

It would be "premature", the American official added, to comment on where discussions with China might lead.  The U.S. has informed China of the "scope and urgency" of provisions in U.S. legislation, and the senior official said the two sides continue to engage in a "good faith dialogue".

In her written statement announcing the latest country exceptions, Secretary Clinton said they send "a decisive message" to Iran's leaders to take concrete actions to satisfy concerns of the international community or face increasing isolation and pressure.

Clinton urged Iran to use the opportunity of next week's scheduled talks in Moscow with the P5+1 countries to address their concerns and act on them.