- Trump is allowing the deal to remain in place to give Congress more time to consider legislation to strengthen the 2015 agreement
- Will also begin negotiations with the United States’ European partners to come up with a companion accord
- Trump had to decide this weekend whether to give it more time or reimpose sanctions on Tehran that would effectively end U.S. participation
- Protests created a new opening for Trump to refuse to waive sanctions, as Tehran’s enforcers have been arresting the demonstration organizers
- Trump decided to have his Treasury Department sanction the nation’s top judge, Sadegh Amoli Larijani, for human rights violations, instead
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‘Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal,’ Trump said in a statement.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.’
The U.S. president warned Tehran, ‘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.’
The Department of Treasury meanwhile announced new sanctions on 14 Iranian entities, including the nation’s top judge, Sadegh Amoli Larijani, for human rights violations.
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 faced a decision this weekend to approve an extension of the Iran nuclear accord or scrap the deal altogether.
The deadline was set against a wave of anti-establishment demonstrations in Iran that the country’s top security force quashed last weekend after arresting the last of the protests organizers.
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’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.
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.
Treasury meanwhile announced new sanctions on 14 Iranian entities, including the nation’s top judge, Sadegh Amoli Larijani, for human rights violations
In a subsequent White House statement Trump said, ‘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.
‘And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately,’ he warned. ‘No one should doubt my word. I said I would not certify the nuclear deal—and I did not. I will also follow through on this pledge.’
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.
But the administration does not plan to arbitrate a new deal with the Iranians, the official emphasized.
‘It would be an agreement between the United States and our European partners to reimpose multilateral sanctions should the Iranians surpass the new triggers that we would lay out.’
Sanctions put in place today by the United States on Iran, an official said on the call, will have a ‘serious political impact’ on the country.
Larijani, the head of the judiciary, is the brother of Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament.
‘So in other words, the designations today politically will go to the top of the regime and will send a very strong message about the United States,’ the official said, ‘that the United States is not going to tolerate their continued abuses — their continued violations of the rights of their citizens.’
Treasury Secretary Steve Munuchin similarly said in a statement that was released after the call had concluded: ‘The United States will not stand by while the Iranian regime continues to engage in human rights abuses and injustice.
‘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.
‘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,’ Mnuchin added.
A section of the Treasury release on Sadegh Amoli Larijani said that he was being sanctioned directly because he has ‘administrative oversight over the carrying out of sentences in contravention of Iran’s international obligations, 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.’
Rajaee Shahr Prison in Iran and it’s director, Iranian national Gholamreza Ziaei, were also targeted for human rights abuses.
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 legislation 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 would 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.
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 a week ago 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 also has to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear accord. He chose not to in October, and he will not sign it again this month, an senior official told DailyMail.com.
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
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.
Corker on Friday said of Trump’s decision to remain in the Iran deal at the time, ‘Before us now is an opportunity to do better.’
‘As I told the president when he called earlier today, we will continue working hard to achieve our shared goal: a better deal for America that will stand the test of time and actually prevent a nuclear-armed Iran,’ the Republican lawmaker said.
Cardin said in a statement: ‘I remain open to discussing legislative options that would not violate the JCPOA and that have the support of our European partners. Congress, the President, and our European partners must remain open to constructive discussions on how to counter the Iranian threat without violating the JCPOA.
‘Instead of leading an international negotiation on the agreement himself, however, the President’s statement making threats and dictating final terms of potential negotiations with Congress and Europe makes it more challenging to achieve this objective,’ Cardin accused. ‘We need to keep pressure on the Iranian government.’
Congressman Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committeee, likewise said, ‘The decision to maintain sanctions waivers is the right one. But the Trump Administration’s policy announced today sets impossible standards that would ultimately isolate the United States rather than isolating the regime in Tehran.
‘“I’m all in favor of trying to address the agreement’s weaknesses,’ Engel said. ‘But the way to do so is to engage with international partners and build momentum to negotiate new provisions. The wrong approach is to bully countries with arbitrary and unenforceable deadlines.’
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
As Trump mulled the decision before him last week, the U.S. Treasury Department then hit five Iranian-based entities with new sanctions for their involvement in the Iran’s illicit production of ballistic missiles.
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 to 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.