Trump allows Iran to continue selling oil to its 8 biggest customers

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…As Democrats seize U.S. House control***

Iran’s oil exports have fallen sharply since President Donald Trump said he would re-impose sanctions on Tehran earlier this year, but with waivers in hand, the Islamic republic’s major buyers could scale up orders as soon as next month.

The original aim of the sanctions was to cut Iran’s oil exports as much as possible, to quash its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and curb its support for militant proxies, particularly in Syria, Yemen and Lebanon.

Washington has pledged to eventually halt all purchases of crude oil from Iran globally but for now its eight biggest oil clients — China, India, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Greece, Taiwan and Turkey — can continue imports without penalty. Crude exports contribute one-third of Iran’s government revenues.

The exemptions allow the eight countries to import at least some oil for another 180 days, and could mean the exports start to rise after November. This group of eight buyers takes as much as three-quarters of Iran’s seaborne oil exports, trade data shows.

“The decision by the U.S. (to grant waivers) represents a departure, for now, from the stated aim of reducing Iran’s oil exports to zero,” said Pat Thaker, regional director for the Middle East and Africa at The Economist Intelligence Unit.NOV. 2, 201801:01

Japan and South Korea, both close U.S. allies, had toed the Washington sanctions line and stopped buying crude from Iran.

Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said Tuesday that Japanese buyers of Iranian oil are expected to resume imports from the Islamic republic after the country was granted a waiver from U.S. sanctions.

In the meantime, Democrats have pledged to check Trump after seizing U.S. house control in Tuesday’s polls.

“Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi told cheering Democrats at a Washington victory party, saying House Democrats would be a check on Trump.

“We will have a responsibility to find our common ground where we can, stand our ground where we can’t,” Pelosi said.

Democrats rode a wave of dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives, giving them the opportunity to block Trump’s agenda and open his administration to intense scrutiny.

In midterm elections two years after he won the White House, Trump and his fellow Republicans expanded their majority in the U.S. Senate following a divisive campaign marked by fierce clashes over race, immigration and other cultural issues.

But with his party losing its majority in the House, the results represented a bitter setback for Trump after a campaign that became a referendum on his leadership.

With some races still undecided, Democrats appeared headed to a gain of more than 30 seats, well beyond the 23 they needed to claim their first majority in the 435-member House in eight years.

The newly empowered House Democrats will have the ability to investigate Trump’s tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and allegations involving his 2016 campaign’s links to Russia.

They also could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package or carry out his hardline policies on trade.

A simple House majority would be enough to impeach Trump if evidence surfaces that he obstructed justice or that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.

But Congress could not remove him from office without a conviction by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate.

House Democrats could be banking on launching an investigation using the results of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s already 18-month-old probe of allegations of Russian interference on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 presidential election.

Moscow denies meddling and Trump denies any collusion.

In spite his party losing the House, Trump wrote on Twitter, “Tremendous success tonight.”

Trump, a 72-year-old former reality TV star and businessman-turned-politician called Pelosi, Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer and several of the Republican winners.

Trump had hardened his rhetoric down the stretch on issues that appealed to his conservative core supporters, issuing warnings about a caravan of Latin American migrants headed to the border with Mexico and condemnations of liberal American “mobs.”

Most Democratic candidates in tight races stayed away from harsh criticism of Trump during the campaign’s final stretch, focusing instead on bread-and-butter issues like maintaining insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and safeguarding the Social Security retirement and Medicare healthcare programs for senior citizens.

In the last two decades there have only been three election cycles where one party picked up 24 or more seats.

Tuesday’s gains were the biggest since 2010, when a wave of conservative anger against Democratic President Barack Obama gave Republicans a massive 64-seat pickup.

Every seat in the House, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate and 36 of the 50 state governorships were up for grabs.

In the House, Democrats picked up seats across the map.

Democrats, who picked up Republican-held seats included Donna Shalala, a former Cabinet secretary under President Bill Clinton, in Florida.

In the Senate, where Democrats were defending seats in 10 states that Trump won in 2016, Republicans ousted four incumbent Democrats: Bill Nelson in Florida, Joe Donnelly in Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Claire McCaskill in Missouri.

Some of the campaign’s biggest Democratic stars lost.

Liberal House member Beto O’Rourke’s underdog Senate campaign fell short in conservative Texas against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

Andrew Gillum lost to Republican Ron DeSantis in his quest to become Florida’s first black governor.

In gubernatorial races, Republican Kris Kobach, a Trump ally, was beaten by a Democrat in Kansas.

Democrats also captured governorships in Michigan and Illinois.

Additional report from NBC