Pompeo leaves door open to waivers on Iranian oil imports

Pompeo leaves door open to waivers on Iranian oil imports
© Greg Nash

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight MORE on Tuesday left the door open to granting waivers to countries seeking to import Iranian oil after U.S. sanctions on the nation take effect later this year.

"There will be a handful of countries that come to the United States and ask for relief from that," Pompeo told Sky News Arabia during a brief visit to the United Arab Emirates. "We’ll consider it."

Pompeo's comments make him the first senior U.S. official to publicly float the idea that Washington could grant some countries waivers from aggressive U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports, which are set to take effect Nov. 4.

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The U.S. is mounting a campaign to pressure other countries to end imports of Iranian oil — a move that follows President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE's announcement in May that the U.S. would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal that sought to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief.

A senior State Department official said during a briefing with reporters last month that the Trump administration did not plan to issue waivers to countries that want to continue importing oil from Iran.

Several key U.S. allies import significant amounts of Iranian oil, including Japan, South Korea and Turkey. China, which remains in the 2015 nuclear deal, is the largest importer of oil from the Islamic Republic.

The threat of looming U.S. sanctions on oil from Iran has prompted concerns of a reduced global oil supply, causing prices to spike in recent weeks. On Tuesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil prices traded at more than $73 per barrel

The U.S. has pressed Gulf Arab allies, including Saudi Arabia, to increase oil production amid rising gas prices. Regular gas prices currently sit at about $2.86 per gallon in the U.S., compared to about $2.26 at this time last year, according to AAA.