WASHINGTON -- The United States says that eight "jurisdictions" will receive temporary exemptions to sanctions set to be imposed on Iran’s oil and financial industries in three days, but that Washington will "aggressively enforce" the measures designed to put "maximum pressure" on Tehran.
Speaking in a telephone briefing with reporters on November 2, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to specify which countries or entities would receive waivers but said the list will be made public on November 5.
Pompeo also did not say whether "jurisdictions" referred to countries or political blocs, but he did specify that the European Union as an entity would not be receiving a waiver.
Separately, Turkey and Iraq said they have been told they would be granted waivers, although U.S. officials did not immediately confirm those claims.
Washington's move brought a rare rebuke from its closest allies, with the EU, Germany, and Britain in a joint statement saying they "deeply regret" the U.S. decision to reinstate sanctions against Iran.
U.S. allies fought unsuccessfully to convince Washington to remain a part of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and have promised to help Tehran counter the financial damage caused by the sanctions and to protect European companies doing "legitimate" business with Tehran.
Washington is moving to reimpose sanctions on Iran's oil sector that were lifted under the nuclear deal in exchange for curbs on Iran's atomic activities.
President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the pact in May and began reimposing sanctions on the Iranian economy in August, saying the terms of the accord were not strict enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and accusing Tehran of supporting militant activity in the region. Iran denies that.
As part of the new round of sanctions, the White House has warned Iran's customers that they must reduce their purchases of oil to zero or face U.S. penalties. The waivers will allow the jurisdictions to temporarily continue imports of Iranian oil.
After the announcement, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told state TV that "we have already prepared for these sanctions in advance, and there is therefore no reason to worry."
Earlier, Deputy Oil Minister Ali Kardor was quoted by state TV as asserting that the granting of waivers was proof that Iran's crude was crucial to preserving the efficient functioning of world oil markets.
"The waivers granted to these eight…show that the market needs Iran's oil and it cannot be pulled out of the market,” Deputy Oil Minister Ali Kardor was quoted by state TV as saying.
Pompeo said the sanctions, and other previous wider measures, were designed to "fundamentally alter the behavior" of the Iranian government, which Washington has long accused of supporting militant activity and terrorism throughout the Middle East.
The moves have contributed to great stress on the Iranian economy and helped lead to a near-collapse of the country's currency, the rial.
In response to the threat of U.S. sanctions, several major European companies announced they were suspending operations in Iran, including energy giant Total; carmakers Peugeot, Renault, and Daimler; aviation companies Airbus, Air France, and British Airways; and German corporate giants Siemens and Deutsche Telecom.
Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the briefing that the fresh sanctions will target Iran's energy, shipping, shipbuilding, and financial sectors.
They said some 700 entities would be added to the list of previously sanctioned individuals and entities.
Among them will be several Iranian banks, the list of which will also be published on November 5.
Prior to the announcement of the waivers, Washington had suggested it might grant temporary relief to some countries. Bloomberg News reported that South Korea, Japan, and India were among those receiving waivers.
India, which is Iran's second-largest customer for oil, had said it would not be able to immediately replace its Iranian imports, while South Korea asked for "maximum flexibility" on its request for a waiver to ease the financial impact on companies there.
Meanwhile, acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said he made clear to U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton during his visit to Armenia in late October that Armenia will pursue its national interests and maintain "special relations" with neighboring Iran, without being more specific about oil imports.
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on October 25, Bolton said he told Pashinian the U.S. administration would enforce sanctions against Iran "very vigorously." For that reason, he said, the Armenian-Iranian border is "going to be a significant issue."
Other countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan, also depend on some imports from Iran.