The U.S. wants to halt the export of Iranian crude

The U.S. is bent on “choking off” Iran’s main source of income, said Mustafa Kirikcioglu in the Daily Sabah (Turkey). The Trump administration slapped sanctions on the country’s energy industry last November, threatening to severely penalize any country that bought Iranian oil. It granted six-month waivers to some of the biggest importers of Iranian crude—China, India, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, and Greece—giving them time to find new sources of supply. Last week, Washington announced that the permits would not be renewed. This hard-line approach is part of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy on Iran. The U.S. wants to cut Tehran’s oil export revenues from $50 billion a year to zero, it says, to stop Iran funding terrorism and militancy across the Middle East and beyond.While these sanctions will certainly hurt Iran, they will also cause pain in the importing countries—many of them, like Turkey,U.S. allies. Turkish officials are now discussing ways to bypass the sanctions, perhaps through some sort of barter deal with Iran.

Putting such a stranglehold on Iran is misguided in the extreme, said The Japan Times (Japan) in an editorial. The sanctions were implemented soon after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, an international agreement that saw Tehran pledge to curtail its nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief. International observers say that Iran is honoring the deal. Yet the Trump administration now wants to single-handedly “force Tehran to change its behavior,” no matter the cost to U.S. allies. Other nations are naturally going to take countermeasures to keep their own trade with Iran going, by, for example, “setting up payment systems that are beyond the reach of U.S. sanctions.” That will undercut U.S. influence and power. Yet the Trump administration “seems oblivious to the damage” it is doing to America’s reputation.

“No nation has the right to tell another who it can and cannot do business with,” said the South China Morning Post (China). Such bullying behavior certainly won’t help the delicate ongoing trade talks between Beijing and Washington. And with its economy at stake, Tehran is now threatening to hit back by blocking the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway through which almost all crude from Persian Gulf nations is shipped for export. Such a move “would have grave implications for global petroleum supplies and the world economy.” But Iran won’t have to do that, said Bruno Maçães in The Moscow Times (Russia), because it can still sell to Russia. With Tehran desperate for customers, Moscow will be able “to dictate the trade terms.” The Iranian oil consumed in Russia will free additional Russian supplies to be shipped to Turkey and India, making those geopolitical players more dependent on the Kremlin. Moscow wants to be a key player in the slice of the world stretching from Murmansk to Mumbai—and the U.S. is helping it achieve that goal.