In May, the Trump administration announced that the US would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reinstate sanctions on Iran’s oil industry starting November 4. Initially, the rhetoric from President Trump and his advisors was that the U.S. expected countries to cut their imports of Iranian oil to zero and that, unlike the Obama administration, this State Department would not grant any waivers.
However, last night–just four days before the sanctions are set to begin–reports began to leak that the U.S. will, in fact, issue exemptions for some importers.
The Iran sanctions stalwarts, President Trump’s foreign policy base, felt betrayed.
I’m hearing that the WH all but collapsed their “tough” Iran sanctions that were meant to kick in this month.
I hope I’m wrong—but it looks like they’ll be giving everyone a waiver and undermining the whole program.
Not good—can’t imagine Bolton is okay with this.
— David Reaboi (@davereaboi) November 1, 2018
But they shouldn’t be so quick to abandon hope. Here’s why:
Zeroing out Iranian exports by November 4 was never a realistic goal. It was a good negotiating tactic to achieve significant reductions in Iranian oil imports. Iran’s economy will still take a significant economic hit from these sanctions, particularly as Iran is again cut off from the SWIFT financial transactions system. Iran’s economy is already in a precarious state and the Iran’s revenue decrease from the reduced oil exports may be sufficient.
Meanwhile, these exemptions can be revoked or decreased over time, and the more gradual reduction in Iranian oil exports prevents an oil shock from harming American consumers at the pump so close to the midterm elections. Trump’s foreign policy base clearly got its hopes up from the strong rhetoric coming out of the State Department and the White House over the past 6 months, but they shouldn’t be too disappointed with how the Trump administration is implementing the sanctions even if it does provide a small reprieve for Iran.