US reimposes all Iran sanctions lifted under nuclear deal

Mike Pompeo said eight countries are getting waivers so they can continue temporarily importing Iranian oil. (File photo / Reuters)
Updated 03 November 2018
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US reimposes all Iran sanctions lifted under nuclear deal

  • The sanctions list widely expands the people and entities targeted and focus on Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors
  • US Treasury will also demand the SWIFT global financial network stop servicing Iran's banking industry

LONDON: A raft of new US sanctions against Iran were announced on Friday, as it emerged that eight territories have been temporarily exempted from restrictions on importing oil from the country.

The move means all the sanctions on Tehran that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal have been reimposed. The second wave of sanctions, that will come into force on Monday, cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors. 

The US will add 700 Iranian individuals and entities to its blacklist and also pressure the global SWIFT banking network to cut off Tehran, US officials said.

Donald Trump said Iran was going to take a very big hit from the sanctions after earlier posting a Game of Thrones - style image with the words “Sanctions are Coming.”

The aim is to pressure Tehran to halt its nuclear activities and support for terrorism in the region, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“Our ultimate aim is to compel Iran to permanently abandon its well-documented outlaw activities and behave as a normal country,” he added.

The new measures come six months after the US president withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal struck between world powers and Iran.

Pompeo said the US will grant exemptions to eight “jurisdictions” that have pledged to, or have already, cut back on purchases of Iranian oil.

He did not name them, but they include India, Iraq, Japan, South Korea, and possibly China, according to reports. Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez confirmed that Turkey had been told it would be granted a waiver.

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The US told Iraq that it will be allowed to keep importing gas, energy supplies and food items from Iran, Reuters reported. The waiver is conditional on Iraq not paying Iran for the imports in US dollars. Iraq’s economy is deeply entwined with Iran.

News of the waivers pushed oil prices down by about 1 percent on Friday, amid investor concerns over oversupply.

Iran said that it had no concerns over the reimposition of sanctions. “America will not be able to carry out any measure against our great and brave nation ... We have the knowledge and the capability to manage the country’s economic affairs,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi told state TV.

France, Germany, Britain and the European Union, which are all trying to save the nuclear deal, issued a joint condemnation of the US move.

“We deeply regret the reimposition of sanctions by the United States stemming from their withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," the statement said.

The deal was aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear capabilities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said there were fears that a complete shut off of Iranian oil exports could “cause a spike in prices and leave oil-consuming economies scrambling to buy oil elsewhere.”

He added: “Saudi Arabia may be able to partially offset substantial Iranian supply losses, but not completely, leaving the market extremely vulnerable to a supply interruption from another source.

Therefore to some extent the Trump administration has had to show to some flexibility as larger oil buyers such as India and China especially have been unwilling to immediately cease all purchases from Iran.”

David Butter, associate fellow for the Middle East and North Africa program at think-tank Chatham House, said that the waivers mark a “limited reprieve” for Iran.

“The waivers are only a partial concession as proceeds of sales would go into escrow accounts that would be used solely to finance Iranian imports from the buyer of the oil,” he told Arab News.

“The US appears to have judged that the costs of refusing waivers would be too high in terms of impairing relations with major countries and driving up oil prices.”

Robin Mills, CEO of Qamar Energy, a consultancy based in Dubai, agreed that the waivers were designed to stop oil prices soaring.

“I don’t see this as a sign of softening (on the part of the US), but as an acknowledgement that some countries are determined to continue buying Iranian oil and that the oil market would suffer from too sharp a withdrawal, leading to uncomfortably higher prices,” he told Arab News.


Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

Updated 23 March 2019
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Renewed US-led airstrikes pound Daesh holdouts

  • According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment
SOUSA, SYRIA: US-led warplanes bombed the north bank of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria on Friday to flush out holdout militants from the last sliver of their crumbling “caliphate.”
Friday’s bombardment ended two days of relative calm on the front line in the remote village of Baghouz near the Iraqi border.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had paused its advance while it combed a makeshift militant encampment, which it overran on Tuesday.
An SDF official said warplanes of the US-led coalition resumed strikes on suspected militant positions before dawn on Friday.
Top SDF commander Jia Furat said his forces were engaging with the Daesh fighters on several fronts while the coalition warplanes provided air support.
The coalition said the “operation to complete the liberation of Baghouz is ongoing.”
“It remains a hard fight, and Daesh is showing that they intend to keep fighting for as long as possible,” it said. The SDF launched what it called its “final assault” against the rebels’ last redoubt in the village of Baghouz on Feb. 9.
Finally on Tuesday, they cornered diehard fighters into a few acres of farmland along the Euphrates River, after forcing them out of their rag-tag encampment of tents and battered vehicles.
The six-month-old operation to wipe out the last vestige of Daesh’s once-sprawling proto-state is close to reaching its inevitable outcome, but the SDF has said a declaration of victory will be made only after they have completed flushing out the last tunnels and hideouts.
According to SDF spokesman Kino Gabriel, hundreds of Daesh fighters, including some women, still remain on the outskirts of the encampment. They are hiding along the bank of the Euphrates River as well as at the base of a hill overlooking Baghouz, he told AFP.
“In around one or two days, we will conclude military operations if there are no surprise developments,” he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Daesh holdouts were hiding in underground tunnels and caves in Baghouz.
SDF official Jiaker Amed said several militants want to surrender but are being prevented from doing so by other fighters.
“We are trying our best to wrap up the operation without fighting, but some of them are refusing to surrender,” he said.
More than 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have quit the last Daesh redoubt since Jan. 9, according to the SDF.
They comprise 5,000 militants and 24,000 of their relatives as well as 37,000 other civilians.
The thousands who have streamed out have been housed in cramped camps and prisons run by Kurdish forces further north.
On Wednesday night, around 2,000 women and children from Baghouz arrived at the largest camp, Al-Hol, which is struggling to cope with the influx of tens of thousands of people, many in poor health.
Since December, at least 138 people, mostly children, have died en route to Al-Hol or shortly after arrival, according to the International Rescue Committee.
Daesh declared a “caliphate” in June 2014 after seizing a vast swathe of territory larger than Britain straddling Iraq and Syria.
The loss of the Baghouz enclave would signal the demise of the “caliphate” in Syria, after its defeat in Iraq in 2017.
But Daesh has already begun its transformation into a guerilla organization, and still carries out deadly hit-and-run attacks from desert or mountain hideouts.
In a video released on Daesh’s social media channels on Thursday, militants vowed to continue to carry out attacks.
“To those who think our caliphate has ended, we say not only has it not ended, but it is here to stay,” said one fighter.
He urged Daesh supporters to conduct attacks in the West against the enemies of the “caliphate.”
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted following the repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.