The U.S. plans an announcement tomorrow on waivers exempting nine nations that import oil from Iran from U.S. sanctions aimed at thwarting Tehran's nuclear program.
China, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan have waivers, which were last renewed in December and are subject to review every six months. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell confirmed that his agency would make an announcement tomorrow.
"I would expect that the administration will grant these oil exceptions," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has advised the Obama administration and Congress on Iran sanctions.
A December 2011 law cuts off any foreign financial institutions from the U.S. banking system if they engage in oil trade with Iran if their country hasn't been granted a waiver.
The law is meant to curb Iran's oil revenues, part of a broad effort by the U.S. and the European Union to pressure Iran to give up a nuclear program they charge is meant to build weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is for medical research and civilian energy.
In the last round of renewals, Dubowitz pointed out that a waiver for China came a little later than exemptions for other countries. While other nations have reduced their Iranian oil imports sharply, in part thanks to surplus in the energy markets, Dubowitz said China hasn't cut back as much.
"I'd be very surprised if the administration didn't give China an exception as well," Dubowitz said. He cited the premium the U.S. places on unity within the group of countries negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program, a group that includes China.
President Barack Obama is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this week in California.