EghtesadOnline: President Donald Trump decided Friday to continue to waive economic sanctions related to the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, leaving the deal intact for now, but issued new sanctions against 14 people and entities involved with the country’s ballistic missile programs and a crackdown on government protesters.
Trump has repeatedly denounced the nuclear agreement negotiated by his predecessor and in October declined to certify that it’s in the interests of the U.S. But he has so far stopped short of pulling the U.S. out of it altogether. Trump said this would be the last time he issues a waiver to maintain the accord, and he bluntly put the onus on European nations to agree to changes, according to Bloomberg.
“Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in a statement issued Friday. “This is a last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.”
Trump said the curbs on Iran’s nuclear program must remain “not just for 10 years, but forever” and be expanded to include ballistic missile technology.
The Trump administration has accused Iran of fomenting instability and violence across the Mideast, and the president’s decision gives the White House and Congress more time to forge legislation punishing the country for that behavior without directly ending the nuclear accord that Iran reached with the U.S. and five other world powers.
“We are targeting the Iranian regime, including the head of Iran’s judiciary, for its appalling mistreatment of its citizens, including those imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and for censoring its own people as they stand up in protest against their government,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. “We are also targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities, which it continues to prioritize over the economic well-being of the Iranian people.”
People the U.S. sanctioned on Friday include Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary whose brother, Ali Larijani, leads Iran’s parliament. Rajaee Shahr Prison and its director, Gholamreza Ziaei, also were included on the sanctions list.
According to the Treasury statement, many Iranians who recently protested against their government are imprisoned at Rajaee Shahr, a facility where prisoners participating in hunger strikes are denied medical care and where there are reported incidents of sexual abuse and unlawful executions.
Trump’s decision to again waive the sanctions related to the 2015 accord was recommended by his entire national security team, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Specifically, Trump had until Friday to decide whether to continue waiving 2012 sanctions that cut off Iran’s central bank from the global financial system, with a host of other, similar deadlines following over the next week. Letting the waivers lapse would have violated the 2015 agreement that Iran reached with world powers in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.
U.S. allies including the U.K. and France have repeatedly defended the agreement and said Iran continues to comply with the accord and they, too, intend to do so.
Instead of backing out of the nuclear deal, Trump has previously said he was giving lawmakers a chance to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the 2015 bill that was passed as a way to impose a degree of congressional oversight over the agreement. Those discussions have been led by Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
On Friday, the U.S. also sanctioned Iranian entities including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Electronic Warfare and Cyber Defense Organization and Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace and National Cyberspace Center. Several Chinese nationals and Chinese companies, as well as Malaysia-based Green Wave Telecommunication, were sanctioned for providing procurement support to Iran.