The United States snapped sanctions back in place on Monday to choke off Iran's oil and shipping industry, while temporarily allowing top customers such as China and India to keep buying crude from the Islamic Republic.
Having abandoned the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, US President Donald Trump is trying to cripple Iran's oil-dependent economy and force Tehran to quash not only its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program but its support for militant proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.
Washington has pledged to completely stop purchases of crude oil from Iran eventually, but for now it said eight countries – China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey – can continue imports for now without penalty.
Crude exports contribute one-third of Iran's government revenues.
"More than 20 importing nations have zeroed out their imports of crude oil already, taking more than 1 million barrels crude per day off the market," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in a briefing. "The regime to date since May has lost over $2.5 billions in oil revenue."
"We have decided to issue temporary allotments to a handful countries responsive to the specific circumstances and to ensure a well supplied oil market," Pompeo said. "Each of those countries have already demonstrated significant reduction of the purchase of Iranian crude over the past six months."
The exemptions are designed to last up to 180 days. US officials have said the countries given temporary exemptions from the sanctions will deposit Iran's revenue in escrow accounts and Tehran will be able to use the funds for humanitarian purposes. [Reuters]