- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2018

The Trump administration’s drive to crush Iran’s oil exports has moved forward after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington will help India reduce its dependence on crude imports from the Islamic Republic.

“We will consider waivers where appropriate,” Mr. Pompeo said after meeting with Indian officials in New Delhi. “But it is our expectation that the purchases of Iranian crude oil will go to zero from every country, or sanctions will be imposed.”

Washington has been re-imposing economic penalties on Tehran since President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal in May.

In a bid to slash Iranian oil experts to zero, U.S. sanctions on Iranian petroleum are scheduled to start in November. Mr. Trump has warned that anyone who does not cut their economic ties to Iran will “risk severe consequences.”

The strategy has caused problems for India, the world’s third-biggest energy consumer after the U.S. and China, which imports roughly 80 percent of its oil, much of it from Iran.

Energy analysts predict that India’s post-sanctions import plans will have a major impact on how much Iranian exports drop in the coming months.

While Washington’s forceful sanctions approach has been working on many fronts — scores of major international companies have ended their business with Tehran — India and China have been working up agreements to sidestep the penalties by importing Iranian oil from Iranian tankers.

Reports from Reuters say Tehran has offered almost free shipping and also provided insurance, an issue because of the non-availability of coverage by Western insurers because of the re-imposed sanctions.

The oil issue emerged front and center on Thursday in New Delhi when Mr. Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis gathered for talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Afterward, Mr. Pompeo said U.S. oil exports offered a solution for some countries cutting ties with Iran.

“It takes a little bit of time to unwind, and we’ll work with them, I am sure, to find an outcome that makes sense,” he said, according to a State Department transcript.

“And from whence they purchase the other crude oil, we’re happy to see if it’s American products that are able to deliver for them,” Mr. Pompeo added. “I think that’d be a great outcome.”

While Mr. Swaraj called the summit fruitful, he provided no details about India’s oil plans.

The news caused reaction from Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi, who was visiting India to discuss establishing a banking workaround to U.S. sanctions.

When asked about Mr. Pompeo’s proposals, Mr. Akhoundi dismissed Washington.

India and Iran’s relationship is essential for region and we are looking at ways to work together,” he said. “The U.S. is an outsider in the region, so the insiders should come together and continue their friendship.”

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