Politics

Trump Again Waives Iran Sanctions — But With a Threat

President has vowed to kill what he calls 'the worst deal ever'

Donald Trump, then president-elect, talks after a meeting with then-President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Nov. 10, 2016. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Despite Donald Trump’s vows to kill it, Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal lives. The 45th U.S. president on Friday again gave a reprieve to the 44th's pact despite his longheld stance that it is “the worst deal ever.”

Trump is again waiving sanctions on Iran that would jeopardize the nuclear pact between Tehran and world powers, according to senior administration officials. But it is the final time he plans to do so, they warned, adding Trump wants to negotiate a new pact with European allies that would re-impose sanctions on Iran if its government violates terms produced by those desired talks.

The Iranian government, however, would not be part of those U.S.-Euro negotiations.

He also wants Congress to alter existing U.S. laws that oversee how the federal government treats the Iran deal — but there is no sign lawmakers will do so anytime soon, or at all.

Trump also is slapping targeted sanctions on some Iranian officials, but has opted against applying the kind of harsh sanctions that would blow up the nuclear accord, administration officials told reporters Friday afternoon on a conference call that, due to “technical difficulties,” did not feature reporters’ questions.

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U.S. presidents, under existing American law, must waive the sanctions every few months to prevent them from causing Iran to declare the nuclear pact violated and simply walk away to resume pursuit of an atomic arsenal.

One administration official described Trump as being “open” to keeping the United States in a modified pact. But he is not proposing “direct talks” with the Iranian government, the official said. The White House wants to negotiate instead with its European colleagues on imposing multilateral sanctions should Iran violate terms produced from those proposed transatlantic talks.

Trump has directed the Treasury Department to slap targeted sanctions on 14 Iranian individuals and entities for a range of actions, including human rights abuses during recent protests there and censorship of the Iranian people.

“The United States will not stand by while the Iranian regime continues to engage in human rights abuses and injustices,” a second administration official said, saying some Iranian citizens are in prison “solely for expressing their rights to assembly.”

The Trump administration’s sanctions also are intended at hindering Iran’s ballistic missile program and other alleged “illicit activities.” She criticized the government in Tehran for pouring monies into those efforts while ignoring the needs of everyday Iranians.

Friday’s announcement followed the president’s October decision to stop short of killing the nuclear accord, which was brokered with Tehran by the Obama administration and other world powers.

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 After repeatedly dubbing the 2015 pact the “the worst deal ever,” Trump in October announced he was keeping the United States in the agreement. He sent the same signal on Friday. For now, at least.

 

“I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons,” Trump said in the fall while announcing his decision to keep the U.S. in the pact.

 

Trump at that time essentially handed lawmakers the ball, saying it is up to Congress to decide whether to keep the status quo, slap the waived sanctions back on Tehran and blow up the 2015 deal — or set up what White House aides describe as “trigger points” that likely would put the nuclear pact in jeopardy.

 

But lawmakers say there has been little movement on Capitol Hill on the issue, and the White House has been mum on whether the Iranian government has approached any of its “trigger points.”

 

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