Trump Extends Iran Nuke Deal, Waiving Some Sanctions

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, right, listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (CN) – President Donald Trump extended the Iran nuclear deal Friday, but indicated this is the last time he would do so unless Congress and European allies agree to revamp the deal within six months.

The announcement came at the deadline for President Trump to decide whether to reimpose sanctions that were suspended in 2015 as part of the Iranian nuclear agreement former President Barack Obama negotiated with Tehran, along with China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK.

It marked the third time the president has extended the deal despite a campaign promise to rip up what he has called “the worst deal ever.”

Unrelated to the nuclear deal, Trump approved sanctions against 14 individuals and entities, including against Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary whom the Trump administration holds responsible for the violent crackdown on recent anti-government protests that erupted in the country.

In a statement issued by the White House, the president called Iran the leading state sponsor of terrorism and said the nuclear deal contains “disastrous flaws” that must be fixed.

Trump said a new deal must punish Iran if it thwarts international inspectors, and must deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon. The president also said a new deal must have no expiration date, and that it must impose sanctions if Iran develops or tests long-range missiles.

“If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume,” the president’s statement said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the nuclear watchdog of the UN, has consistently reported that Iran has stayed within the main parameters of the deal.

Since the change in administrations, the State Department likewise has certified that Iran is in “technical compliance” with the deal.

According to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, Trump is not necessarily backing away from his campaign promise to abandon the deal, but is instead attempting to kill it in an indirect way.

“By deliberately creating uncertainty at every three month deadline as to whether the U.S. will honor its commitments, Trump makes it impossible for sanctions relief to move forward as promised under the accord,” he said in a statement. “This uncertainty has worked as a de facto sanction and helps prevent investments from reaching Iran, which in turn has contributed to the economic frustrations of the Iranian people.”

In Parsi’s view, this could prompt Iran to pull out of the deal first.

“This way, Trump manages to kill the accord while ensuring that Tehran gets the blame for its collapse,” he said.

Parsi added that Trump’s actions contradict an obligation under the accord to refrain from interfering with the implementation of the sanctions relief required under the deal.

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