SOUTH KOREA, India, China, Japan and Taiwan are among the select importers exempt from US sanctions that punish countries that continue importing oil from the Iranian regime, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.
The announcement came just hours after President Donald Trump imposed the “toughest sanctions ever” on Iran. This included reinstating all the sanctions lifted by former-president Barack Obama as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Deal.
Trump defended his decision to give exemptions saying it was necessary to keep global oil prices down and avoid causing a shock to the market. Italy, Greece and Turkey also received exemptions.
The sanctions were part of “an unprecedented campaign of economic pressure,” Pompeo said, as reported by Nikkei Asian Review.
The objective, Pompeo said, is “to starve the Iranian regime of the revenue it uses to fund violent and destabilising activities throughout the Middle East and, indeed, around the world.”
Iranian leaders decried the severe measures but remained defiant, saying they were prepared to work through the US’s “bullying.”
In a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Iran’s UN ambassador called the sanctions “illegal” and claimed they run counter to the UN principles of “sovereign equality of states.”
“The irresponsible conduct of the United States necessitates a collective response by the international community in order to uphold the rule of law, to prevent undermining diplomacy and to protect multilateralism,” Gholamali Khoshroo wrote.
Pompeo has repeatedly said the sanctions are not aimed at the Iranian people. In a press briefing on Friday, the Secretary of State told reporters:
“Our actions today are targeted at the regime, not the people of Iran, who have suffered grievously under this regime. It’s why we have and will maintain many humanitarian exemptions to our sanctions including food, agriculture commodities, medicine, and medical devices.”
Initially, the White House demanded all countries stop imports of Iranian oil or risk not doing business with the US. This decision was reversed, however, after it was noted some countries had “made significant reductions in their crude oil exports” and so would be exempt from stopping trade entirely.
In May, President Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 landmark JCPOA terming it as “disastrous.”
Under the Obama-era deal, Iran had agreed to stop its nuclear programme in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Iran maintains its nuclear programme is peaceful and for civilian purpose.