President Donald Trump has decided to honor the terms of the Iran nuclear deal – for now – as he negotiates with Congress and the United States’ partners in Europe to strengthen the international accord.
Trump waived nuclear sanctions on Iran one more time on Friday as he butted up against a deadline to make a decision.
‘Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal,’Trump said in a statement. ‘Instead, I have outlined two possible paths forward: either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.’
A senior administration official told reporters on a call prior to the announcement that this is the ‘last such waiver’ that Trump will issue and that he will now turn to the United States’ allies to come up with a ‘follow on’ agreement.
President Donald Trump has decided to honor the terms of the Iran nuclear deal – for now – as he negotiates with Congress and the United States’ partners in Europe to strengthen the international accord
The Department of Treasury meanwhile announced new sanctions on 14 Iranian entities, including the nation’s top judge, for human rights violations.
‘As head of Iran’s Judiciary, Sadegh Amoli Larijani has administrative oversight over the carrying out of sentences in contravention of Iran’s international obligations,’ Treasury said, ‘including the execution of individuals who were juveniles at the time of their crime and the torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran, including amputations.’
Trump’s decision today to waive nuclear sanctions on Iran once again gives him a 120-day window to act on his desire to negotiate a secondary deal to reimpose sanctions on Tehran if it moves toward developing a nuclear weapon at any time.
The president is open to remaining in a ‘modified deal’ with European allies, a senior official, said Friday that would snap-back sanctions on Iran if it resumes its illicit behavior after the original, 10-year deal expires.
The administration does not plan to engage in direct negotiations with the Iranians, the official said.
‘It would be an agreement between the United States and our European partners to reimpose multilateral sanctions should the Irianians surpass the new triggers that we would lay out.’
Lawmakers opted not to take advantage of an opportunity to reimpose sanctions on Iran themselves last year. They’re working on a companion agreement that addresses Trump’s concerns about the existing deal, namely its sunset clauses.
Trump faced a decision this weekend to approve an extension or scrap the deal altogether.
The deadline was set against a wave of anti-establishment demonstrations in Iran that the country’s security force said it quashed last weekend after arresting the last of the protests organizers.
Trump and his administration had come to the defense of the protesters in Iran. The U.S. president said last week that they would have the full assistance of his government when the time was right.
‘Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration,’ he said in one of his tweets. ‘The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!’
The spontaneous demonstrations in response to economic conditions and government oppression, including censorship, and Tehran’s enforcers’ response offered another reason for Washington to punish Iran.
In October, Trump said he would not certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement that was negotiated under the previous administration because it was in violation of the ‘spirit’ of the accord, citing its development of ballistic missiles and financial support for terrorism.
‘We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,’ Trump stated.
The Trump administration asked Congress then to come up with and pass a companion agreement that addresses those issues.
It said it would also like Congress to amend the legislation that gives lawmakers the authority to slap sanctions on Iran if it decides Tehran is in violation of the nuclear agreement, outlining ‘trigger points’ instead that set off automatic sanctions.
Trump said he wants Congress to fix ‘the deal’s many flaws’ such as existing sunset provisions. The administration would like nuclear sanctions to snap-back on Tehran if it falls back into old habits after prohibitions outlined in the deal have expired.
Trump and his administration had come to the defense of the protesters in Iran, seen here on Dec. 30. The U.S. president said last week that they would have the full assistance of his government when the time was right
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week that Trump would be inclined to authorize another sanctions waiver if he felt that real progress was being made toward the changes he demanded in October.
‘The president said he is either going to fix it or cancel it,’ Tillerson told the Associated Press on Friday. ‘We are in the process of trying to deliver on the promise he made to fix it.’
The White House said Tuesday that Trump was keeping his ‘options open’ as he contemplated the decision.
In his October remarks, Trump said he would keep a campaign promise to rip up the deal if it came to that.
‘The deal is terrible. So what we’ve done is, through the certification process, we’ll have Congress take a look at it, and I may very well do that,’ he said. ‘But I like a two-step process much better.’
Trump is required to consider sanctions on Iran every 120 days. If he did not sign the sanctions waiver this week, the U.S. would have been violating its end of the nuclear agreement.
Every 90 days Trump must has also certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear accord. He chose not to in October.
Last week, Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Ben Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat, met with Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, about the changes to the existing sanctions regime that the president wanted.
‘My sense is there’s a little momentum right now, and it doesn’t feel to me like we’re in a place where the president might do that, but who knows,’ he told reporters.
Tillerson suggested during his interview with the AP on Friday that Trump was leaning toward allowing the deal to remain as is while Congress continues to work to address his outlined issues.
‘I don’t want to suggest we’re across the finish line on anything yet,’ he added.
As White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held her first press briefing of the New Year last week, the unrest in Iran was front and center.
‘We certainly keep our options open in terms of sanctions. In terms of signing a waiver later in January, the President hasn’t made a final decision on that,’ Sanders said of the sanctions waiver last Tuesday. ‘He’s going to keep every option on the table.’
The U.S. Treasury Department then hit five Iranian-based entities with new sanctions on Thursday for their involvement in the Iran’s illicit production of ballistic missiles.
Vice President Mike Pence said Trump’s administration would stand with the protests in ‘their hour of need’ last week. It’s anticipated that Trump could use the government’s handling of protesters as a reason not to waive nuclear sanctions
Vice President Mike Pence meanwhile said Trump’s administration would stand with the protesters in ‘their hour of need.’
‘The last administration’s refusal to act ultimately emboldened Iran’s tyrannical rulers to crack down on the dissent. The Green Revolution was ruthlessly put down, and the deadly silence on the streets of Iran matched the deafening silence from the White House,’ Pence said in as Washington Post op-ed.
‘Today, the Iranian people are once again rising up to demand freedom and opportunity, and under President Trump, the United States is standing with them. This time, we will not be silent.’
The demonstrations continued to weigh heavily on Foreign Relations committee members’ minds on Monday as Trump neared the deadline for the nuclear sanctions decision.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez wrote Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin asking that the federal government to do more to assure U.S. tech companies that they would not be violating U.S. sanctions if they provide workarounds for protesters to use online platforms that the Iranian government has censored.
‘I believe it is both in our national and moral interests to support these protesters and their desire for a free, democratic, and transparent Iranian government that doesn’t needlessly waste Iran’s resources on foreign adventurism that has resulted in massive human rights abuses, funding of terrorist organizations, and the deaths of American soldiers,’ they said.