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How the U.S. Can Force the World to Squeeze Iran’s Oil

Workers climb stairs from a lower deck aboard an offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf's Salman Oil Field.

Workers climb stairs from a lower deck aboard an offshore oil platform in the Persian Gulf's Salman Oil Field.

Photographer: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg
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Once a major customer, the U.S. hasn’t bought oil from Iran for more than 25 years. How, then, can it lead a global movement to stop Iran from selling its chief export? The answer is simple: Any nation continuing to buy Iranian oil will face U.S. sanctions, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Monday after announcing temporary waivers granted to some nations late last year won’t be renewed when they expire on May 2.

As with other sanctions campaigns, U.S. leverage rests with the central role American banks -- and the U.S. dollar -- still play in the global economy. So any country, company or bank that violates the terms of the U.S. sanctions could see their U.S.-based assets blocked or lose the ability to move money to or through accounts held in the U.S. In essence, the Trump administration is betting that nations, banks and businesses worldwide will decide they’d rather do business with the U.S.