Squeezing Gas Prices or Iran? Trump Must Choose

The deadline for the US administration to decide whether to extend sanctions waivers granted to buyers of Iranian oil is now less than a month away, and President Donald Trump faces a tricky decision. He undoubtedly wants to increase pressure on the Persian Gulf nation, but in doing so he risks stoking oil prices and with them those all-important gas prices in swing states back home.

Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran, believes oil market conditions are better this year than they were in 2018 for accelerating the goal of “zeroing out all purchases of Iranian crude,” or so he told reporters last week. But the numbers tell a different story.

That is going to make it more difficult for Trump to go in hard on the remaining buyers of Iran’s oil.

Crude prices have risen nearly 50 percent since Christmas, with WTI popping above USD 62.50 a barrel last week for the first time in almost five months. Retail gasoline prices are on a tear, too. The latest data from the Department of Energy show gas prices up by 18 percent since late February, bringing them back to where they were this time last year.