Washington Says It Does Not Want to Harm ‘Friends And Allies’ with Iran Sanctions

National security adviser John Bolton says the White House wants sanctions on Iran’s oil sector to put a strain on Iran’s economy, but it does not want to harm “friends and allies” that depend on the oil, Radio Free Liberty reported.

“We want to achieve maximum pressure, but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either,” Bolton told the Hamilton Society in Washington on October 31, signaling a possible softening of the White House’s demand that all countries reduce their Iranian oil imports to “zero.”

Washington is preparing to reimpose sanctions on Iran’s oil industry on November 5 after withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. However, the White House also has been considering waivers from the sanctions requested by allies such as India and Turkey.

India, which is Iran’s second-largest customer for oil, has said it cannot immediately replace its Iranian imports and is seeking a waiver, while Turkey has also sought an exemption from the U.S. Treasury Department.

This week, South Korea also asked U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for “maximum flexibility” on its request for a waiver to prevent companies there from being hit by the sanctions.

Other countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, also depend on some imports from Iran. Bolton said the administration understands that a number of countries “may not be able to go all the way, all the way to zero immediately.”

The New York Times adds these developments, less than a week before the crucial deadline this Monday, indicate that the U.S. campaign against Iran is facing severe challenges.

Saudi Arabia, the administration’s crucial partner in its anti-Iran efforts, is facing global censure and threats of sanctions from Congress after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist and Saudi dissident. Penalties against Saudi Arabia could undercut efforts to keep global oil prices stable as Iran’s exports plunge, the Times writes.

Problems have also piled up as European diplomats and oil analysts say that even after the sanctions go into effect, Iran will most likely sell at least one million barrels of crude oil a day – a sharp decline from last year but perhaps enough to sustain its economy and wait out Trump’s term.

The administration’s stated goal for its sanctions campaign is for Iran to make a dozen fundamental changes to its domestic and foreign policies, including ending its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

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