Eleven countries have been granted an exception from U.S. sanctions aimed at cutting funding for Iranian oil exports – funding that helps pay for Iran’s illicit nuclear program.
Under a law signed by President Barack Obama on December 31, 2011, countries need to show by June 28, 2012 that they are substantially cutting back on their imports of Iranian oil, or their financial institutions risk being cut off from the U.S. banking system.
The eleven countries that have already significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran and earned exceptions include Japan and ten countries in the European Union -- Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Britain, and Spain. The exceptions are valid for 180 days –- until September 16th -- and are renewable based on ongoing reductions.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted the actions taken by the eleven countries to reduce their imports of Iranian oil were not easy ones. “They had to rethink their energy needs at a critical time for the world economy and quickly begin to find alternatives to Iranian oil, which many had been reliant on for their energy needs,” she said in a statement. “The ban on all new purchases of Iranian crude oil by the European Union countries as of January 23, and phase- out of existing contracts by July 1 demonstrate their solidarity and their commitment to holding Iran accountable for its failure to comply with its international obligations.”
Secretary Clinton noted that Japan significantly reduced its crude oil purchases from Iran despite the hardship and loss of energy capacity after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. She commended all eleven countries for their actions and urged other nations that import oil from Iran to follow their example.
State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland explained that the more the U.S. sees from other countries the kind of progress the EU and Japan have made in weaning themselves from Iranian crude, the more exceptions will considered. “We want the impact to be on Iran,” she said. “At a time when we’re trying to convince Iran to definitively demonstrate that their program is not a weapons program, we have to maximize the pressure. And the lifeline to the Iranian regime is its crude oil supplies.”