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U.S Increases Economic Pressure On Iran


Well, the White House is issuing a warning - by November, countries must stop buying oil from Iran or risk losing business with the United States. This is part of a strategy to pressure Tehran after the U.S. withdrew from a nuclear deal. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: When President Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in early May, he warned the U.S. would start reimposing sanctions on Iran, including its oil. Officials from the State and Treasury Departments have been fanning across Europe and Asia, telling allies they have until November 4 to stop importing Iranian oil or face U.S. sanctions. Gary Hufbauer with the Peterson Institute of International Economics says this can only inflame tensions with some of America's most important partners.

GARY HUFBAUER: This is a way of enlarging trade wars, which are already going on, which will be met very strongly by resistance, even by a faithful ally like Britain or Japan.

NORTHAM: Suzanne Maloney, an Iran specialist at the Brookings Institution, says there are ways countries can get around the U.S. sanctions.

SUZANNE MALONEY: The Chinese, in particular, have used individual banks that are essentially insulated from the U.S. marketplace. There are other mechanisms - barter, trade, trade in local currencies. The Iranians will seek to use smuggling and other mechanisms to get their oil to market.

NORTHAM: But Maloney says all of this will have real economic consequences for Iran, which is already seeing its currency slide.

MALONEY: The administration is really launching what can only be described, I think, as economic warfare against the Iranian government with the intent of either forcing a really dramatic reversal of a range of Iranian policies or possibly even driving the system itself into some kind of a collapse.

NORTHAM: Maloney says the oil sanctions will create a knock-on effect for the U.S. and global economy, inevitably pushing up oil prices. A U.S. delegation is heading to the Mideast to ask exporters there to ensure global oil supply once Iran is officially cut out of the market.

Jackie Northam, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOR'S "VAULTS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.