White House Hints At Easing Of Iran Sanctions For 'Friends And Allies'

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WTI and Brent crude futures continued to trend lower following reports that the United States has agreed to let several countries keep purchasing Iranian oil.

Pulling crude back down, however, was a report that several governments had received waivers that would still allow countries to import some Iranian crude once United States sanctions are reimposed from next week.

Any country, or company, trading with Iran without U.S. consent after sanctions kick off risks getting cut off from the American financial system.

Indian oil companies have been allowed to continue importing about 2.5 million tons of Iranian crude per month until March, sources familiar with the matter told the Economic Times.

The impending oil sanctions have been a US tool to pressure Iran in the six months since President Donald Trump backed out of the 2015 nuclear deal between the Middle East nation and six world powers, saying it didn't do enough to constrain the Islamic Republic's nuclear program or curb what the USA calls other "malign activity" in the region. The Trump administration has rebuffed them and gone ahead with its sanctions plan, arguing that nations, banks and businesses worldwide will decide they'd rather do business with the USA than Iran and leave the market. Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil between April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of fiscal 2017-18).

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Senior US State Department officials working on the Iran issue are said to have convinced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to permit Iran to remain connected to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) global banking system, Washington Free Beacon reported, citing the sources familiar with the matter.

Lack of clarity is still dominant regarding both Iranian exports and potential USA waivers, but Iran's top two oil buyers-China and India-are not bringing their imports down to zero. "I don't know whether these waivers are permanent or temporary ones", IRIB quoted Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Ali Kardor as saying. This also includes Iran's top buyers, India, South Korea and Japan, while Chinese officials stated that talks were now ongoing for waivers. Turkey's Energy Ministry said on Friday it had not received written notification of any exemption.

"The U.S. may use waivers to slow-walk implementation, but these will not apply indefinitely", Allen said.

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.

Russian Federation has been planning to import oil from Tehran but no major projects have materialized.