Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday the United States will no longer grant any exemptions for countries to buy oil from Iran, strengthening sanctions that have already weakened the regime's position in its most critical market.
"We'll no longer grant any exemptions," Pompeo said. "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."
"How long we'll remain there at zero depends solely on the Islamic Republic of Iran's senior leaders," he added.
Pompeo celebrated the pressure campaign waged by the Trump administration against the Iranian regime since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Noting that the regime's top source of cash is oil, Pompeo said sanctions have "denied the regime well north of $10 billion."
"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," he said.
Pompeo said U.S. goals aren't just in line with allies but also with the Iranian people who live under oppression—and he took a shot at the Obama administration for "appeasing their oppressors."
"These demands are not just coming from the United States government and many of our allies and partners, they are similar to what we hear from the Iranian people themselves," he said. "I want the Iranian people to know we are listening to them and stand with them. We will not appease their oppressors, as the last administration did. Our hopes are for a better life for them, and all people afflicted by the regime's violence and destruction."
Pompeo said denying Iran oil money is critical to improving the situation in the Middle East, where Iran sponsors terrorism and funds rebels in Yemen.
"The regime would have used that money to support terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and continue its missile development, in defiance of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, and would have perpetuated the humanitarian crisis in Yemen," Pompeo said.