US officials confirmed Friday that there is an active internal process on considering waivers for countries that intend to continue to buy oil from Iran in violation of US sanctions. This is ongoing in spite of John Bolton claiming only the day before that there would be no waivers at all.
Though the administration had indicated in the past they were loathe to accept any waiver requests, today’s comments mark the first time they’ve confirmed that a process of review even exists, and is active. Several nations, including India and Iraq, have been seeking waivers form the US, while the European Union, China, and Russia have indicated they’ll just defy the sanctions outright.
The EU announcement that they are establishing their own clearing house to skirt US banking sanctions likely is playing a role in this US decision to review the waivers. China buys more than half of Iran’s oil, and with the EU buying it’s clear this “drop to zero” plan for Iran’s exports is going nowhere. Punishing other allies for trading with Iran makes less and less sense in that context.
Historically, Iran’s oil trade has tended to flow mostly eastward, toward the Asian Pacific region. Nations like South Korea and Japan have been buyers in the past, and are likely to be given priority for waivers since failing to get them would inconvenience them more.