President Donald Trump took another step this week in working to unwind Barack Obama’s terrible Iran nuclear deal. In a statement, the White House announced, “Trump has decided not to reissue Significant Reduction Exceptions (SREs) when they expire in early May. This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue.” Recall that last year Trump granted six-month waivers to eight countries, temporarily exempting them from the sanctions imposed against Iran following the president’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. That exemption period has come to an end, and Trump is following through on his commitment to isolate the Iranian regime so as to get the mullahs to give up their pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Predictably Iranian officials responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, an area through which a fifth of the world’s oil trade travels. China, one of the country’s granted a sanction exemption, indicated that it is unlikely to end oil trade with Iran. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang argued, “China’s cooperation with Iran is open, transparent, reasonable and legitimate, and should be respected.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned, “We’ll no longer grant any exemptions. We are going to zero across the board. We’ll continue to enforce sanctions and monitor compliance and any nation or entity interacting with Iran should do its diligence and err on the side of caution; the risks are simply not going to be worth the benefits.” He added, “How long we’ll remain there at zero depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s senior leaders.”
Pompeo then reiterated, “The goal remains simple: to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds it has used to destabilize the Middle East for four decades and incentivize Iran to behave like a normal country.” That’s a great goal, but frankly it’ll take regime change to achieve it.