US renews Iran sanctions, grants oil waivers to China, seven others

A customer looks at items in an electronics shopping mall in downtown Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2018
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US renews Iran sanctions, grants oil waivers to China, seven others

  • US reimposes sanctions on Iran’s oil, banking sectors
  • Washington grants oil waivers to eight countries

WASHINGTON: The US snapped sanctions back in place on Monday to choke off Iran’s oil and shipping industries, while temporarily allowing top customers such as China and India to keep buying crude from the Islamic Republic.
Having abandoned a 2015 Iran nuclear deal, US President Donald Trump is trying to cripple Iran’s oil-dependent economy and force Tehran to quash not only its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program but also its support for militant proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.
Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would to continue to sell its oil despite Washington’s “economic war.” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said US “bullying” was backfiring by making Washington more isolated, a reference to other world powers opposed to the initiative.
Washington has pledged to eventually halt all purchases of crude oil from Iran globally but for now it said eight countries — China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey — can continue imports without penalty. Crude exports contribute one-third of Iran’s government revenues.
“More than 20 importing nations have zeroed out their imports of crude oil already, taking more than 1 million barrels of crude per day off the market,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in a briefing. “The regime to date since May has lost over $2.5 billion in oil revenue.”
Pompeo said the waivers were issued to countries that have already cut purchases of Iranian crude over the past six months, and to “ensure a well-supplied oil market.”
US officials have said the countries given temporary exemptions will deposit revenue in escrow accounts for Tehran to use solely for humanitarian purposes. The exemptions are usually designed to last up to 180 days.
Iran’s exports peaked at 2.8 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, including 300,000 bpd of condensate, a lighter form of oil that when underground tends to exist as gas. Overall exports have fallen to 1.8 million bpd since then, according to energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, which expects volumes to drop further to 1 million bpd.
“This is only the beginning of the Iranian production curtailment story, not the end,” said Michael Tran, commodity strategist at RBC Capital Markets. “The market was previously overly focused on the number of countries receiving exemptions on imports from Iran. The Trump administration has made it clear that further reductions must be made over the coming months.”
Oil prices rallied above $85 per barrel in October on fears of a steep decline in Iranian exports. Prices have fallen since then on expectations that some buyers would receive exemptions and as supply from the world’s largest producers has increased.
On Monday, international benchmark Brent crude oil futures were up nearly 0.6 percent to $73.23 a barrel and US crude futures were up 0.4 percent at $63.39 a barrel.
The sanctions also cover 50 Iranian banks and subsidiaries, more than 200 people and vessels in its shipping sector, Tehran’s national airline, Iran Air, and more than 65 of its aircraft, a US Treasury statement said.
They include more corporate entities and individuals compared with sanctions imposed on Iran during the tenure of President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor.
“We’ve said for a long time: Zero should mean zero,” John Bolton, White House National Security adviser told Fox Business Network in an interview. “These are not permanent waivers — no way, we’re going to do everything we can to squeeze Iran hard.”
Oil markets have been anticipating the sanctions for months and the world’s biggest producers have been increasing output.
Joint output from the world’s top producers — Russia, the US and Saudi Arabia — in October rose above 33 million bpd for the first time, up 10 million bpd since 2010.


New tech regulation ‘inevitable,’ Apple CEO Cook says

Updated 19 November 2018
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New tech regulation ‘inevitable,’ Apple CEO Cook says

  • ‘I’m a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn’t worked here’
  • ‘I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation’

WASHINGTON: Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts that new regulations of tech companies and social networks to protect personal data are “inevitable.”
In an interview with news website Axios being broadcast Sunday on HBO television, Cook said he expected the US Congress would take up the matter.
“Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of regulation,” Cook said in an excerpt released by Axios. “I’m a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn’t worked here. I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation.
“I think the Congress and the administration at some point will pass something.”
Cook has previously been a proponent of self-regulation, especially as concerns user data protection.
But following the scandal that saw data consultancy Cambridge Analytica obtain data from millions of Facebook users, Cook said the industry was now “beyond” the scope of self-regulation.
Facebook has been trying to fend off concerns about how well it protects user data and defends against use of the site to spread misinformation aimed at swaying elections.
Controversies that have battered Facebook since the 2016 presidential election in the United States have raised questions over whether co-founder Mark Zuckerberg should keep his post as chief executive.
Turning to gender inequality in the workplace, Cook said the tech industry has generally been strong in diversity, even though a male-dominated culture prevails.
“I agree 100 percent from a gender point of view that the (Silicon) Valley has missed it, and tech in general has missed it,” he said.
However, Cook added, “I’m actually encouraged at this point that there will be a more marked improvement over time.”