US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the import of oil from Iran beginning November 4 will be a sanctionable activity but the US would consider the request for relief from a handful of countries, in an apparent reference to India which is the second largest buyer of Iranian crude.
"Come November 4, there will be a US sanction that prevents crude oil from passing from Iran to other countries. It will be sanctionable activity. We will enforce those sanctions," Pompeo told Sky News Arabia.
Pompeo was responding to a question that some countries in Europe and in other parts of the world intend to keep on getting oil from Iran even after the sanctions are imposed.
"How would you look at this?" he was asked. "Well, that will violate the sanctions that we put in place," the top American diplomat said.
"There will be a handful of countries that come to the US and ask for relief from that. We'll consider it," Pompeo said in an indication that the Trump Administration is willing to show some flexibility to countries like India.
"But make no mistake about it, we are determined to convince the Iranian leadership that this malign behaviour won't be rewarded and that the economic situation in their country will not be permitted to be rectified until such time as they become a more normal nation," Pompeo said.
Iran is India's third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iran supplied 18.4 million tonnes of crude oil between April 2017 and January 2018 (first 10 months of fiscal 2017-18).
The secretary of state also alleged that the Iranian leadership is engaged in bad behaviour in the region.
"The kinds of things that threaten the people here in the Emirates -- missiles being launched from Yemen that strike real risk to the people of all of the Gulf states. And so American policy is aimed to deter that," he said.
"I've seen these remarks about their threats. The world should know that America is committed to keeping sea lanes open, to keep transit of oil available for the entire world. That's the commitment we've had for decades. We continue to honour that commitment," Pompeo said.
Iran, he demanded, needs to get out of Syria. "They have no business there. There's no reason for them to be there. There's been Iranian influence there for a long time. Iranian forces, Iranian militias must leave the country," he said.