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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Feb. 17, in New Delhi. Photo: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India, a country the Trump administration has called “a key security and economic partner,” will soon test U.S. resolve on Iran. Two Indian firms are reportedly seeking to purchase Iranian oil in November. Should the imports go through, they would contravene the stated U.S. aim of bringing Iran’s petroleum exports “as close to zero as possible” by Nov. 4.

Between the lines: Despite its goal of increasing pressure on Iran, the U.S. is considering “significant reduction exemptions” for countries trying to get to zero. To gain this exemption, New Delhi will likely cite current press reporting about its reduced intake of Iranian crude. However, recent data paints a different picture of India’s Iranian oil imports, which have stayed essentially the same for the past two months.

The details: India is second only to China as an importer of Iranian oil. September data from Tanker Trackers showed New Delhi importing just under half a million barrels of crude oil per day from Tehran — almost one-quarter of the country’s total crude exports for that month.

Washington, which left the Iran nuclear deal in May, is restoring a second, much heavier batch of sanctions on Iran in early November, targeting the country’s energy, shipping and insurance sectors. New Delhi, which initially contested the previous round of oil sanctions on Iran before reducing imports, is again publicly at odds with U.S. policy. This divergence on oil, as well as on other issues such as Russian arms imports, was on full display when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to India in September.

The bottom line: Much is riding on the Trump administration’s decision to use coercive financial measures to bring Iran back to the negotiating table. If the U.S. decides to spend political capital on sanctions waivers, it should do so only for countries genuinely reducing their dependence on Iranian crude. Otherwise, it risks undercutting the efficacy of its own sanctions, as well as ceding leverage in its relationships with countries that continue to transact with Iran.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Go deeper

32 mins ago - World

Canadian Indigenous group finds 93 suspected unmarked graves

A makeshift memorial honoring the 215 children whose remains were found in a mass grave in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, last May. Photo: Cole Burston/AFP via Getty Images

Indigenous leaders in Canada's western province of British Columbia said Tuesday they believe they've found 93 unmarked graves near a former boarding school.

The big picture: Hundreds of mass graves have been found at the grounds of former residential schools for Indigenous children since last May, when the remains of 215 children were uncovered at one such site in B.C.

3 hours ago - World

Coast Guard searches for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

A U.S. Coast Guard ship leaving its base in Miami Beach, Florida, in July. Photo: AP/Marta Lavandier

U.S. Coast Guard crews were searching into the night for 39 people whose boat sank off Florida's coast over the weekend after traveling from the Bahamas.

The big picture: A "good Samaritan" contacted the Coast Guard about 8 a.m. Tuesday to say they "rescued a man clinging to a capsized vessel" 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, per a tweet from the agency, which noted it was dealing with "a suspected human smuggling venture."

Scoop: Race to lead NRCC kicks off

Reps. Darin LaHood (left) and Richard Hudson. Photos: Al Drago/Getty Images (LaHood) and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) and Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) are both telling colleagues they plan to run for chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee for the 2024 cycle, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Republicans are confident they'll win the House majority back this fall, and the early jockeying to lead the caucus' fundraising apparatus is just another indicator of their optimism.

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