Oil dips as US grants Iran sanctions waivers; Tehran defiant

Targeting Iranian oil exports will hurt Tehran finances but also the oil market's balance

The move will restore U.S. sanctions that were lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the administration of President Barack Obama, and add 300 new designations in Iran's oil, shipping, insurance and banking sectors.

"The Iranian regime has a choice: It can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble", said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"We are at an economic war situation".

The rollout was the largest ever single-day action targeting the Iranian regime and a crucial step in President Trump's pullout from the Iran nuclear deal that was announced in May. In exchange for lifting sanctions on Iran, Tehran agreed to reduce its nuclear program as part of the accord.

Denouncing Iran as a destabilising force, Mnuchin added, "this is part of a maximum unprecedented economic pressure campaign that the USA is waging against the world's largest state sponsor of terror". Iran's biggest oil buyers in recent years have been China, India, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Japan.

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Last weekend, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said: "The US's goal in imposing sanctions is to paralyse and prevent the growth of national economy; but it resulted in a movement towards self-sufficiency in Iran".

Iran said on Monday it would break the sanctions and continue to sell oil overseas. USA light crude was 15 cents lower at $62.99. Washington announced a target to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero and urged its customers to abandon such purchases.

President Donald Trump's administration added 300 new designations including Iran's oil, shipping, insurance and banking sectors, aiming to cripple Iran's main export revenues from the petroleum industry.

Tehran has claimed a diplomatic victory against the USA with Europe still pressing hard to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal and taking steps to establish a payments channel to bypass the sanctions. The Administration has granted waivers to eight countries that have reduced their oil purchases from Iran but not stopped them entirely. This group takes as much as three quarters of Iran's seaborne oil exports, trade data shows, meaning Iran will still be allowed to export some oil for now.

"Any financial institution, company, or individual who evades our sanctions risks losing access to the U.S. financial system and the ability to do business with the United States or USA companies", Mnuchin said.

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"The maximum pressure exerted by the United States is only going to mount from here". The Chinese Foreign Ministry reiterated its objections to sanctions, but would not directly say whether China had been granted an exemption. "The talks with the Iranians on the matter continue", the official said. "The countries will proactively push their imports down, and they will not be paying for what they are getting in cash, preventing the flow of funds to Iranian proxies in the Middle East, including Hezbollah".

The Iranian official also stressed that Iran's allies are seeking to find ways of defeating USA sanctions.

But they were opposed by other signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal - Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the EU.

It follows Washington's withdrawal from a 2015 global agreement on Iran's nuclear programme.

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