Sanctions: U.S. grants 8 countries waiver to buy iran’s oil

Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif speaks during a news conference in Istanbul

The US plans to re-impose oil-related sanctions on Iran on November 4 to choke the Islamic Republic's biggest source of income and pressure it to renegotiate a new nuclear deal.

Significantly, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had mentioned India's intention to go ahead with the Chabahar project in the US Ambassador's presence at the same event, blaming Pakistan for "blighting" India's connectivity options to the West.

The waivers are being granted for continued import cuts, so that oil prices do not shoot up, the official added. But we are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis.

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The US government has agreed to let eight countries, including close allies South Korea and Japan, as well as India, keep buying Iranian oil aid the upcoming sanctions, Bloomberg reported, citing a US official. Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil between April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of fiscal 2017-18).

Turkey, a key destination for Iranian crude, may be among countries that are getting an exemption, Energy Minister Fatih Donmez told reporters in Ankara on Friday. The companies will be allowed to import 1.25 million tons a month up to March 2019, the same as they ordered for October and November.

Analysts said, however, that waivers would likely be only temporary. State oil firms are yet to decide on how this quantum will be split between them.

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Lack of clarity is still dominant regarding both Iranian exports and potential US waivers, but Iran's top two oil buyers-China and India-are not bringing their imports down to zero. Under this, rupee is used for import of rice, drugs, and other products from India while the balance proceeds in rupee and euro sit idle in the Indian bank waiting for sanctions to go.

U.S. hardliners want to press ahead on SWIFT, but others argue to keep the option as a bargaining card with the Europeans and say that SWIFT access remains useful in tracking Iranian transactions.

The chief economic advisor did not provide any details of the trade talks between India and the US. Saudi Arabia could make up the difference; while the kingdom has threatened to use oil in retaliation for global punishment over its killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, it also is eager to squeeze Iran, its regional rival.

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Refineries using Iranian oil have also faced insurance issues during renewals in recent months. Indian public refineries like Mangalore has also been buying Iranian oil but not in the numbers that they were earlier. The Trump administration has rebuffed them and gone ahead with its sanctions plan, arguing that nations, banks and businesses worldwide will decide they'd rather do business with the US than Iran and leave the market.

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