While the Trump administration’s goal remains to choke off revenue to Iran’s economy, waivers are being granted in exchange for continued import cuts so as not to drive up oil prices, said the official, who asked not to be identified before Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announces the number of exemptions later on Friday.
China — the leading importer of Iranian oil — is still in discussions with the US on terms, but is among the eight, according to two people familiar with the discussions who also asked not to be identified. The other four countries that will get waivers weren’t identified, Bloomberg reported.
The administration must maintain a delicate balancing act with the waivers: ensuring the oil market has sufficient supply and avoiding a politically damaging spike in fuel prices, while also ensuring that Iran’s government doesn’t collect enough revenue that the US sanctions become irrelevant.
Global benchmark Brent crude has fallen about 15 percent from over $85 a barrel last month on increasing speculation that at least some nations will get waivers, as well as signs that other OPEC members will pump more to offset any supply gap. Oil futures were at $73.04 a barrel at 7:12 a.m. in London on Friday.
Previously, Pompeo has said “it is our expectation that the purchases of Iranian crude oil will go to zero from every country or sanctions will be imposed,” but also acknowledged that waivers were being negotiated with nations that say crude from Iran are critical to their energy industry.
The waivers are only temporary, and the US will expect countries that get them to keep cutting Iranian imports in the months ahead, according to the US administration official, who declined to give details on the volume of oil the nations will be allowed to buy under the exemptions.