Home/Daniel Larison/The Destructive Iran Obsession Gets Even Worse

The Destructive Iran Obsession Gets Even Worse

The Trump administration’s destructive Iran obsession is getting even worse for the rest of the world:

The U.S. expects all countries to cut oil imports from Iran to “zero” by Nov. 4 or risk sanctions, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Tuesday, expressing a toughening of the Trump administration’s Iran policy as Washington tries to politically and economically isolate Tehran.

Buyers of Iranian crude had expected the U.S. would allow them time to reduce their oil imports over a much longer period, by issuing sanctions waivers for nations that made significant efforts to cut their purchases. That expectation was partly based on previous comments from top Trump officials as well as the Obama administration’s earlier decision to wean the world off Iranian oil over several years.

But the senior State Department official said on Tuesday the administration doesn’t plan to issue any waivers, and would instead be asking other Middle Eastern crude exporters over the coming days to ensure oil supply to global markets.

Many of the countries that import Iranian oil won’t comply with this diktat, and we should expect some of them to respond to U.S. sanctions with retaliatory measures. The U.S. isn’t just proposing to wage economic war on Iran, but threatens to extend that war to all of Iran’s major trading partners. India has already indicated that it isn’t going to respect U.S. sanctions on Iran, and I can’t imagine that China will be any more cooperative on this front. The refusal to offer waivers is an extreme position that will provoke strong resistance from governments that will rightfully resent being told which countries they can trade with. This is an abuse of U.S. power, and it will breed resentment and further poison relations with other major economic powers.

It is important to emphasize how irrational and unnecessary the U.S. demand to halt imports of Iranian oil truly is. When the U.S. was working with its allies and other major powers to pressure Iran to agree to restrictions on its nuclear program, other governments cooperated with U.S. requests by reducing their purchases of oil from Iran, but they never stopped them all together. The U.S. under Trump has reneged on the nuclear deal that came from that, and now our government is back demanding that other countries forego Iranian oil entirely just because Washington says so. There is no good reason why other countries should go along with what the Trump administration wants, and by attempting to strangle Iran’s economy in this fashion the administration confirms that it has become unhinged by its obsession with hurting Iran.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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