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Port of Kharg Island Oil Terminal, off the Iranian coast. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Oil prices are up following yesterday's claim by a senior State Department official that the U.S. doesn't intend to grant sanctions waivers for buyers of Iranian crude oil.

Why it matters: The Trump administration plans to take a hard line once the penalties are reimposed in November, but the posture comes with uncertainties.

The quote: "I would be hesitant to say zero waivers ever. I think the predisposition would be no, we’re not granting waivers," the official told reporters.

The uncertainties:

  • How many barrels of Iranian crude can successfully be shut out of the market (as we've noted before, estimates before the U.S. comments have ranged from little impact to over a million barrels per day).
  • How much increased output from OPEC and Russia can — or can't — mitigate potential price rises that have domestic political consequences in the U.S.

Be smart: Veteran Reuters analyst John Kemp summed up the state of play on Twitter early Wednesday...

"[The] WHITE HOUSE can push Iran’s crude exports to zero, or it can have moderate oil prices, but cannot have both. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait likely do not have enough spare capacity to offset loss of all Iran barrels as well as Venezuela and other losses. White House must choose."

The intrigue: Some analysts cautioned that translating the tough posture into a major cut in Iranian exports isn't a given. An important line from S&P Global Platts' report...

  • "The US will face an 'extraordinarily difficult' task in cutting off all Iran oil trades, 'particularly if the US administration is still only in the process of conveying this message to Iran's oil purchasers,' said Elizabeth Rosenberg, director of the energy program at the Center for a New American Security."

Go deeper: The Wall Street Journal looks here at the market response to the sanctions comments.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists — National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
  5. Cities: Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. World: London police arrest dozens during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
9 hours ago - Economy & Business

The unicorn stampede is coming

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Airbnb and DoorDash plan to go public in the next few weeks, capping off a very busy year for IPOs.

What's next: You ain't seen nothing yet.