‘Last Chance’ for Iran, Trump Says, as Sanctions on Tehran Regime Waived Again
US President Donald Trump said on Friday he would waive nuclear sanctions against Iran for the last time to give Washington and its European allies a chance to fix the “terrible flaws” of the 2015 nuclear deal.
A senior administration official said Trump wants the deal strengthened with a follow-on agreement in 120 days or the United States will unilaterally withdraw from the international pact.
“Senior administration officials are saying, in as many words, there’s ‘no wiggle room,'” one critic of the nuclear deal remarked. “Fixes need to happen in 120 days or the US is out.”
Trump had privately chafed at having to once again waive sanctions on a country he sees as a rising threat in the Middle East.
“This is a last chance,” Trump said in a statement. “In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in 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.”
While Trump approved the sanctions waiver, the Treasury Department decided to impose new, targeted sanctions against 14 Iranian entities and people. Among the designated individuals is the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, who is said to have played a key role in repressing recent anti-regime protests.
Today would be a good day to sanction an Iranian regime insider close to the supreme leader and responsible for the brutal repression of Iran’s people. #IranProtests
— Mark Dubowitz (@mdubowitz) January 12, 2018
Trump had lengthy discussions on Thursday with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and others about the deal, which was reached during the presidency of Democrat Barack Obama.
Trump will now work with European partners on a follow-on agreement that enshrines certain triggers that the Iranian regime cannot exceed related to ballistic missiles, said a senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the decision.
One official said Trump would be open to remaining in a modified deal if it was made permanent.
“I hereby call on key European countries to join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal, countering Iranian aggression, and supporting the Iranian people,” Trump said in the statement. “If other nations fail to act during this time, I will terminate our deal with Iran.”
Trump also wants Congress to modify a law that reviews American participation in the nuclear deal to include “trigger points” that if violated would lead to the US reimposing its sanctions, the official said.
This would not entail negotiations with Iran, the official said, but rather would be the result of talks between the United States and its European allies. Work already has begun on this front, the official said.
Trump has argued behind the scenes that the nuclear deal makes the US look weak, a senior American official said. The argument for staying in, the official said, was to allow time to toughen the terms of the agreements.
A decision to withhold a waiver would have effectively ended the deal that limits Iran’s nuclear program. The 2015 agreement between the United States and Iran also was signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union, and these countries would have been unlikely to join the United States in reimposing sanctions.
In a statement, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley praised Trump for taking “decisive action to make it clear the United States will continue to abide by the terms of the Iran nuclear deal, but will not tolerate Iran’s dangerous and destabilizing behavior, and we expect other countries to join us.”
“Here at the UN, we look forward to gaining new international cooperation to strengthen actions against Iranian missile activity, enforce arms embargoes that Iran violates, crack down on Iranian sponsorship of terrorism, and continue to shine a light on Iranian human rights violations,” Haley declared.
Jewish organizations reacted to the announcement by stressing the Iranian regime’s woeful human rights record. “The harsh response to protests against the regime, and continuing intervention in countries across the region, give the lie to the myth that Iran’s government would moderate its behavior as a result of the JCPOA,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris in a statement.
Harris added that he was urging “the international community to work toward ensuring that Iran does not flaunt the spirit of the JCPOA (the technical name for the Iran deal,) clandestinely work around it, drive a wedge among allies, or, exploiting the flaws in the original deal, follow the long-term glide path to nuclear status that it was essentially, and tragically, granted in 2015.”
Meanwhile, pro-Israel organization AIPAC responded to Trump’s announcement by saying, “The United States must press our allies to come to an understanding about the future of the JCPOA’s provisions that expire or ‘sunset.’ Simultaneously, our government must apply additional pressure on the Iranian regime to end its regional aggression, illicit ballistic missile program, and suppression of the rights of its own citizens.”