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US poised to tell 5 nations their Iran oil exemptions will end

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, April 2019. (U.S. State Department/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The Trump administration is poised to tell five nations, including allies Japan, South Korea, and Turkey that they will no longer be exempt from U.S. sanctions if they continue to import oil from Iran, according to the AP.

The news agency, quoting three unidentified U.S. officials, said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to announce on April 22 that the president will not renew sanctions waivers for the five countries when they expire on May 2. The other two countries are China and India.

Pompeo said on April 10 that President Donald Trump will continue to increase pressure on Iran “so that their behavior will change.”

Oil exports are a key source of revenue for Tehran, which has been hit hard by the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, often leading to unrest in Iranian cities.

AP said it was not immediately clear if any of the five would be given additional time to wind down their purchases or if they would be subject to U.S. sanctions on May 3 if they do not immediately halt imports of Iranian oil.

Ahead of Pompeo’s announcement, an unamed Iranian Oil Ministry source told the semiofficial Tasnim news agency that the United States will fail to cut Iranian oil exports to zero.

“Whether the waivers continue or not, Iran’s oil exports will not be zero under any circumstances unless Iranian authorities decide to stop oil exports…and this is not relevant now,” Tasnim quoted the unnamed “informed source” as saying.

Trump has taken a hard line toward Iran by withdrawing from a landmark nuclear deal that world powers signed with Tehran in 2015 and by reimposing tough economic sanctions.

On April 8, Trump said he would designate Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist organization, in an unprecedented step that drew Iranian condemnation and raised concerns about retaliatory attacks on U.S. forces.

The action by Trump marked the first time the United States has formally labeled another nation’s military a terrorist group.