Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote

Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote
© Greg Nash

Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: The Trump administration moved Monday to increase its pressure campaign against Iran.

In the latest move, the administration will not renew waivers that allowed eight foreign governments to buy Iranian oil without getting sanctioned.

"President Donald J. Trump has decided not to reissue Significant Reduction Exceptions (SREs) when they expire in early May," White House press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah Elizabeth SandersBiden pledges return to daily press briefings as president Sarah Sanders: I will walk out of the White House 'with my head held high' Trump directs Pentagon to develop policy allowing service academy athletes to go pro right away MORE Sanders said in a statement. "This decision is intended to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue."

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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist US bans top Myanmar generals from country over attacks on Rohingya Muslims MORE a short time later also made the announcement from the State Department's press briefing room.

"We're going to zero across the board," Pompeo said. "With the announcement today we have made clear our seriousness of purposes. We are going to zero. How long we remain there at zero depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran's senior leaders."

Background: Sanctions on Iranian oil purchases were reimposed in November as part of Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

But amid concerns over roiling the international oil market, the Trump administration granted sanctions waivers to eight governments: China, India, Japan, Turkey, Italy, Greece, South Korea and Taiwan.

The waivers are due for renewal May 2.

Three of the places -- Italy, Greece and Taiwan -- have already stopped importing Iranian oil and so did not need their waivers renewed.

But the others have not. It is unclear whether China, India, Japan, Turkey and South Korea will immediately be sanctioned May 3 if they do not stop importing Iranian oil by then, with officials sidestepping the question Monday.

Effect on oil prices: Oil prices spiked Sunday after reports of the Trump administration's decision emerged and stayed high Monday. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, rose to as high as $74.31 per barrel Monday, a 3 percent increase and the highest price since November.

Francis Fannon, assistant secretary of State for energy resources, brushed off the increase, saying, "There's lots of reasons for what affects oil markets."

In order to prevent disruption to the oil markets, the United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates agreed to take unspecified action, according to the White House statement.

"The United States, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, three of the world's great energy producers, along with our friends and allies, are committed to ensuring that global oil markets remain adequately supplied," the statement said. "We have agreed to take timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market."

Pompeo said the Saudis and Emiratis have assured "they will ensure an appropriate supply for the markets," but said he'd "leave others" to discuss what specifically the two countries have agreed to.

Congressional reaction: Iran hardliners in Congress were happy Monday.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGoogle official denies allegations of ties to China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book MORE (R-Texas), who pushed Pompeo about the waivers at a recent hearing, applauded Monday's announcement as an "important step in finally ending all American implementation."

"This decision will deprive the Ayatollahs of billions of dollars that they would have spent undermining the security of the United States and our allies, building up Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and financing global terrorism," Cruz said in a statement.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim RischJames (Jim) Elroy RischSenate ratifies long-stalled tax treaty Trump says US will not sell Turkey F-35s after Russian missile defense system purchase This week: House Democrats voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt MORE (R-Idaho) similarly commended the move.

"I welcome the administration's announcement that the United States will no longer entertain exemptions for countries importing Iranian oil," he said in a statement. "Oil supplies make up a significant portion of the regime's revenue, and I support denying it the financial resources needed to pursue its malign agenda. Currently, market conditions are strong and we have confidence that other nations can and will fill any future gaps in the global oil supply."

International reaction: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, who opposed the Iran deal, similarly praised the decision as being "of great importance for increasing pressure on the Iranian terrorist regime."

"We stand with the United States' determination against Iranian aggression and this is the right way to stop it," he tweeted in Hebrew.

China, meanwhile, denounced the decision, saying it opposes "unilateral" sanctions and "long-arm jurisdictions imposed" by the United States.

"Our cooperation with Iran is open, transparent, lawful and legitimate, thus it should be respected," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. "Our government is committed to upholding the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and will play a positive and constructive role in upholding the stability of global energy market."

NATO ally Turkey was also not pleased. Turkey had been lobbying Trump for another waiver.

"The #US decision to end sanctions waivers on #Iran oil imports will not serve regional peace and stability, yet will harm Iranian people. #Turkey rejects unilateral sanctions and impositions on how to conduct relations with neighbors," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu wrote in a tweet in which he also tagged Pompeo and the State Department.

Trump revives Kerry criticism: In his tweeting about the oil sanctions Monday, Trump revived criticism of former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerrySchumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence Trump threatens Iran with increased sanctions after country exceeds uranium enrichment cap The 'invisible primary' has begun MORE, who has said he has met with Iran's foreign minister since leaving office.

"Iran is being given VERY BAD advice by @JohnKerry and people who helped him lead the U.S. into the very bad Iran Nuclear Deal. Big violation of Logan Act?" Trump tweeted, referring to the law that prohibits private citizens from unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments.

Kerry has said there is nothing unusual about a secretary of State keeping in touch with his former counterparts.


FOUR AMERICANS KILLED IN SRI LANKA:
At least four Americans were killed and several seriously injured in a series of bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, a State Department official said Monday.

"While details continue to emerge, approximately 290 people have been killed, including at least four U.S. citizens," a State Department official told The Hill. "Several U.S. citizens were seriously injured in the attacks. We extend our deepest condolences to the friends and families of the deceased. We will continue to work to provide services and support to all U.S. citizens affected and their families."

The official declined to disclose further details out of respect for the privacy of the victims. The initial American death toll was first reported by The Washington Post.

According to the Post, one of the American victims was a fifth-grade student at Sidwell Friends, an exclusive private school in the Washington, D.C., region.

Pompeo blames 'Islamic radical terror': During his Monday morning remarks at the State Department, Pompeo blamed "a horrific wave of Islamic radical terror" for the bombings.

"What was supposed to be a joyful Easter Sunday was marred by a horrific wave of Islamic radical terror and bloodshed," Pompeo said.

Pompeo said that he had spoken to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe earlier Monday morning and that the United States is offering "all possible assistance" to the Sri Lankan government and U.S. citizens impacted by the terror attacks.

"We urge that any evildoers be brought to justice expeditiously and America is prepared to support that," Pompeo added. "We stand committed, resolved, to confront terrorism together."

Trump call: Trump also called Wickremesinghe on Monday as the country dealt with the aftermath of the attacks.

"President TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE pledged United States support to Sri Lanka in bringing the perpetrators to justice, and the leaders re-affirmed their commitment to the fight against global terrorism," White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Wickremesinghe updated Trump on the progress of the investigation into the attacks, Gidley said.

Trump told reporters at the White House Easter Egg Roll that the attacks were "unthinkable" and that he'd spoken with the prime minister and "various government officials."

"We are working with Sri Lanka, but that's a terrible thing," he said.

 

LATEST ON YEMEN RESOLUTION FIGHT: With Trump vetoing the Yemen war powers resolution last week, the fight now is whether Congress will take any vote to override the veto.

On Monday, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries The hidden connection between immigration and health care: Our long-term care crisis Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE (I-Vt.) wrote a letter to his colleagues pushing for a vote.

"The president's action is a very serious challenge to congressional authority that demands a response," Sanders, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, wrote in the letter to fellow senators.

He argued that regardless of whether they supported the underlying resolution, senators should support a veto override vote to protect their constitutional authority to declare war.

The resolution, which would have required Trump to withdraw U.S. forces helping the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen's civil war, didn't pass either the Senate or the House with enough support to override a veto.

Will there be a vote?: A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment White House, Congress inch toward debt, budget deal Republicans scramble to contain Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.) told The Hill last week he had no guidance on whether the Senate would hold a veto override vote.

McConnell did not support the resolution. But Senate rules mean some sort of procedural vote to deal with Trump's veto message is likely, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The House cannot hold an override vote unless the Senate does first, since the resolution that originated in the upper chamber.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

The U.S. Institute of Peace will host an event on "A New Approach to Preventing Extremism in Fragile States" at 9:30 a.m. Panelists include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. https://bit.ly/2ViZCBk

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host "Evaluating the Global Counterspace Landscape," featuring a keynote from deputy assistant secretary of Defense for space policy Steve Kitay, at 4 p.m. https://bit.ly/2GAUyAk

 

ICYMI

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