Trump says "fragile" oil market behind decision on Iran waivers

By Jennifer Jacobs and Alyza Sebenius on 11/7/2018

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said the “fragile” global oil market was a key reason his administration decided to extend waivers this week to eight countries allowing them to continue importing Iranian oil in violation of new U.S. sanctions.

“I don’t want to drive oil prices up to $100/bbl or $150/bbl,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House on Wednesday. “You have a monopoly called OPEC and I don’t like -- wait -- I don’t like that monopoly, I don’t like it.”

Eight nations -- including China, India and Turkey -- received temporary waivers allowing them to continue buying Iranian crude, though the administration says they need to show that they are working to get imports to zero. The waivers are expected to last 180 days, though they can be extended. The decision to issue waivers caused a split among some Trump aides and conservative allies.

Trump’s focus on global oil prices could constrain his ability to end the waivers if other countries can’t or won’t compensate for the reduction of Iranian oil on the global market. Administration officials estimate that Iranian oil sales have been reduced by about one million barrels per day since May, costing the country about $2.5 billion in revenue.

Trump imposed the sanctions on dealings with Iran’s oil and financial industries Monday following his decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic. He’s said that accord was too weak and that he wants to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and what he calls its support for terrorism in the Middle East by choking off its oil revenue.

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