The Obama administration on Tuesday exempted Japan and 10 European nations from the prospect of biting sanctions intended to punish countries that continue to buy oil from Iran, but it left open the fate of other major importers, including China, India and South Korea.
The sanctions, ordered by Congress late last year to intensify diplomatic and economic pressure over Iran’s nuclear activities, have put the administration in the difficult position of threatening to punish some of the United States’ closest allies while it seeks to squeeze Iran’s main source of hard currency.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who announced the exemptions in a statement, cast them as evidence of the success of the new sanctions because the countries had cut imports. The United States, she said, was making progress in “shrinking Iran’s oil export markets and isolating its Central Bank from the world financial system.”
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