Trump administration sanctions Iranian individuals while continuing sanctions relief
The Trump administration has imposed additional sanctions on Iran relating to certain individuals involved in that country's ballistic missile program.
But the White House also maintained the waiver of major sanctions on Iran agreed to in the nuclear deal. The dual track sanctions policy shows that the major review of U.S. Iranian policy ordered by the president is not complete, and for the foreseeable future, Iran will continue to enjoy the economic benefits of sanctions relief.
"The United States continues to waive sanctions as required to continue implementing U.S. sanctions-lifting commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," the State Department said in a statement, referring to the deal by its formal name.
The United States brands Iran a "state sponsor of terrorism." It says Tehran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, Houthi rebels in Yemen's civil war and the Hezbollah Shi'ite political party and militia in Lebanon, have helped destabilise the Middle East.
Separately, the Treasury Department said it had sanctioned two senior Iranian defence officials, an Iranian company, a Chinese man and three Chinese companies for supporting Iran's ballistic missile programme.
The designation of the seven Iranian and Chinese people and companies blocks any assets they might have in the United States and bars Americans and non-Americans from doing business with them, at the risk of being blacklisted by the United States.
The decision on the sanctions waiver represented a major early policy choice on the nuclear deal for the Trump administration, which has said that it is engaged in a wider policy review on how to deal with Iran.
Iran holds a presidential election on Friday with President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist cleric whose administration reached the nuclear deal, battling a conservative challenger and trying to convince voters he can deliver economic growth.
The Iranian government and some Iranian citizens have been disappointed that U.S., European Union and United Nations sanctions relief provided so far under the nuclear deal has failed to spark an economic renaissance.
The United States on Wednesday renewed a waiver of the key, and most punitive, sanctions that it imposed on Iran before the nuclear deal was ultimately struck.
Under these sanctions, tucked into Section 1245 of the 2012 National Defence Authorization Act, the United States threatened to sanction the banks of Iran's main oil customers if they did not significantly reduce their purchases of Iranian crude.
Under the law, these sanctions can be waived for a maximum of 120 days. The Obama administration did so in mid January, forcing the Trump administration to decide by Wednesday whether to renew them or to put the wider Iran deal at risk.
Why doesn't the Trump administration reveal the secret protocols, side deals, and unpublicized details of the agreement? Here's where the idiocy of President Obama's negotiations are made obvious. As long as the deal remains in effect, the Trump administration is prevented from making the public aware of exactly what Barack Obama negotiated with the terrorists in Tehran. This secrecy was deliberately negotiated into the deal to prevent Congress and the American people from seeing the scope of Obama's betrayal. Even many Democrats would have hesitated to vote for this agreement if some of what's leaked out after Congress failed to kill the deal had been known at the time.
So as long as the deal is in place, we will be kept in the dark about everything in it.
In the end, it won't matter. International sanctions will not "snap back," as President Obama said they would if Iran cheated. There was never any chance of that, and for the president to sell that deal to Congress based on the lie that sanctions would be re-imposed shows the lengths to which Obama went to insure his "legacy."
Technically, Iran doesn't even have to cheat. It's apparent that the Iranians have interpreted parts of the deal that differ from our understanding. In some ways – as is the case with improving the quality and efficiency of centrifuge technology – the two nations have an entirely different understanding of what that means. It should go without saying that the Iranian interpretation of many aspects of this deal favors their development of a nuclear weapon.
I can understand why the Trump administration might want to maintain the nuclear deal until it gets all its ducks in a row on Iran. If we were to cancel the deal before a plan of action had been formulated, the Iranians could embark on a crash program to build a nuke. In a matter of a couple of months, Iran could have a workable bomb. Better to have a plan to deal with Iran in place before Trump demands changes in the agreement that would force the Iranians to either limit their nuclear program or scuttle the deal.