February 18, 2019

Trump’s Iran Sanctions Could Work

“Those who doubt that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Iran sanctions will hit their target should reconsider. It is true that their immediate impact on Iran’s oil export revenues will likely be minimal. But in the longer term, the effects of the sanctions regime could be significant. In fact, it could make it nearly impossible for Iran to sustain its current oil production.

Earlier this month, the United States reimposed bans on Iranian oil exports after announcing its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May this year. The agreement, negotiated in 2015, traded a reduction in international sanctions on Iran for limitations on the country’s nuclear development program. The Trump administration’s renewed embargoes target Iran’s petroleum and shipping industries and place limits on financial transactions that are critical to the country’s oil and natural gas exports.

Observers were immediately skeptical that the renewed embargoes would do much good.

First, as soon as the administration announced the new regime, it also granted waivers to eight countries—among them the largest importers of Iranian oil—including China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Turkey. In 2017, these five countries purchased 70 percent of Iran’s crude oil and condensate exports. China, a signatory to the nuclear agreement, makes up almost a quarter of Iran’s petroleum export market.”

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