Melbourne — In the end, US President Donald Trump kicked the Iran crude oil sanctions can six months down the road, raising questions as to how the various players in the dispute will use the time. The US government granted waivers to eight buyers of Iranian crude, exempting them from the sanctions that came into effect on November 4 that are aimed at reducing exports from the Islamic Republic to zero. The waivers will allow the eight countries, which include top buyers China and India, to keep buying crude for another 180 days, a move aimed at reducing the shock of a sudden loss of all Iranian exports.

There are a number of ways of looking at the US decision to grant waivers to countries, which, together account for some 80% of Iran’s total oil exports. The first would be that Trump and his administration effectively blinked first in their dispute with Iran over its nuclear and missile programmes. It could also be argued that it was a rare example of “realpolitik” from the Tr...

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