A senior State Department official on Monday reaffirmed the Trump administration's goal of reducing Iran's oil exports to zero by November. However, he signaled that some importers could get leeway to taper off purchases beyond the deadline.
Oil prices soared to new multiyear highs last week after another State Department official told reporters the administration is pushing foreign companies to completely cut off oil purchases from Iran by Nov. 4. The announcement shocked the market because some oil watchers expected Washington to let importers reduce their purchases over many months, a model first implemented by the Obama administration.
Brian Hook, the State Department's director of policy planning, reiterated the administration's hardline stance, but addressed the market's concerns during the Monday briefing.
"Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenues from crude oil sales. We are working to minimize disruptions to the global market, but we are confident that there is sufficient global spare oil production capacity," he said.
On Saturday, President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia's king had agreed to his request to raise oil output by as much as 2 million barrels a day — twice what the Saudis agreed to a week earlier at a meeting of two dozen producer nations. The White House later walked back Trump's claim that the leaders had reached an agreement, saying Saudi Arabia would consider hiking output further if necessary and after consulting its oil market allies.