US to end sanction waivers for countries purchasing Iranian oil; Pompeo: We are going to zero… how long we remain there at zero depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s senior leaders; Netanyahu: This is how to deal with Iran’s aggression and this is how to block it; State Department announces $10 million award for information on Hezbollah’s financing.

The United States announced it would no longer grant sanction waivers to countries buying Iranian oil on Monday, oil prices rising on Tuesday as a result. The announcement was made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from the White House press room Monday, where he emphasized the ultimate goal for Iran as “to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilize the Middle East for four decades, and incentivize Iran to behave like a normal country.”

Addressing the press, Pompeo spoke of the United States’ efforts to combat Iran and its nuclear program under the Trump Administration. He spoke of the 40% of the regime’s revenue coming from oil sales as the reason for the United States’ latest efforts. He stated, “Before our sanctions went into effect, Iran would generate as much as $50 billion annually in oil revenue. Overall, to date, we estimate that our sanctions have denied the regime well north of $10 billion. The regime would have used that money to support terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and continue its missile development in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, and it would have perpetuated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

He reiterated, “Our goal has been to get countries to cease importing Iranian oil entirely. Last November, we granted exemptions from our sanctions to seven countries and to Taiwan. We did this to give our allies and partners to wean themselves off of Iranian oil, and to assure a well-supplied oil market.” Countries such as China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey will be affected by the new policy.

He then reported, “Today I am announcing that we will no longer grant any exemptions. We’re going to zero… across the board. We will continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance. Any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution. The risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits,” assuring the public “we have used the highest possible care in our decision to ensure market stability.”

He promoted oil sales from US partners Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the United States, stating “I can confirm that each of those suppliers are working directly with Iran’s former customers to make the transition away from Iranian crude less disruptive… we’re doing our part here in the United States too. In 2018, crude production increased by 1.6 million barrels per day over the 2017 levels. And the U.S. Energy Information Agency projects an increase of an additional 1.5 million barrels per day in calendar year 2019.” He reiterated “We are going to zero… how long we remain there at zero depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s senior leaders.”

Directly addressing Iran, he spoke of the United States’ policy towards its nuclear and missile programs. He stated, “We have made our demands very clear to the Ayatollah and his cronies. End your pursuit of nuclear weapons. Stop testing and proliferating ballistic missiles. Stop sponsoring and committing terrorism. Halt the arbitrary detention of U.S. citizens. Our pressure is aimed at fulfilling these demands and others, and it will continue to accelerate until Iran is willing to address them at the negotiating table.” He also cited the Iranian people stating, “I want the Iranian people to know that we are listening to them and standing with them. We will not appease their oppressors, as the last administration did. Our hopes are for a better life for them, and all people afflicted by the regime’s violence and destruction.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu praised the decision on Monday while touring northern Israel with his family. He stated to the press, “The decision of President Trump and the American administration to increase the sanctions against Iran is a decision of very great importance. This is how to deal with Iran’s aggression and this is how to block it.”

The State Department on Monday also announced an up to $10 million reward for information that could disrupt Hezbollah’s financing, asking for donor information and as well as Hezbollah businesses, another action combatting Iran and its proxies in the region.

Photo: Mohamad Reza Jamei/