As the administration ends waivers that allowed eight countries to continue purchasing Iranian crude and condensate, one administration official told CNN that they are concerned about the response from Tehran, which could target US assets in the Middle East and escalate tensions with the US and in the region.
The focus on oil exports is the latest step in the administration's "maximum pressure" campaign to create change inside Iran -- an effort some say is more focused on regime change. The intense US focus on Iran has alienated traditional allies in Europe who have stuck to the Iran nuclear deal that Trump abandoned.
The USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier is headed to the region earlier than planned ahead of Iran's expected announcement on Wednesday that it will pull back on some of its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal, which the U.S. quit a year ago on Trump's order. The White House, meanwhile, is expected to impose even more sanctions on Iran in the coming days.
Taken together, Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign" against the Islamic Republic and its latest attempt at gunboat diplomacy may be reaching a hazardous crescendo.
“I don’t think either side wants to go to war, but this is the kind of brinksmanship that could get out of hand," said Alex Vatanka, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute.
The potential disruption to oil markets may end up contributing to the difficulty of cutting Iran's exports.
Production within the OPEC oil cartel has been disrupted by US sanctions on Venezuela, intensifying conflict inside Libya, and a Saudi decision to cut production, analysts said.
Tell you MoC to stop the march of blood for oil, and remind them that only they can declare war, not Trump or Bolten.