Trump administration unveils new sanctions on Iran

Waiver on existing sanctions extended as US warns Iranian regime over ‘stifling basic freedoms’

President Donald Trump during an event to honour Dr Martin Luther King jnr in the White House, on Friday. The White House on Friday warned this would be the last time the sanctions on Iran would be waivered. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

President Donald Trump during an event to honour Dr Martin Luther King jnr in the White House, on Friday. The White House on Friday warned this would be the last time the sanctions on Iran would be waivered. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

 

The Trump administration unveiled new sanctions on Iran on Friday, but extended a waiver on existing sanctions, effectively keeping the Iran nuclear deal in place temporarily.

But the White House warned this would be the last time the sanctions would be waivered, as it lambasted the Iranian regime for “stifling basic freedoms and denying its citizens the opportunity to build better lives for their families”.

In October, Mr Trump controversially announced that the United States was pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama presidency, but he ordered Congress to come up with a solution that might justify staying in the agreement. With no solution yet forthcoming from Congress Mr Trump on Friday reluctantly extended a waiver on the nuclear-related sanctions.

Under the terms of the landmark agreement the US president must certify the deal every 90 days and pass sanction waivers every 120 days.

“Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. Instead I have outlined two possible paths forward: either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws or the United States will withdraw,” the president said in a statement.

The US administration added 14 new individuals and entities to the sanctions list whom it accuses of human rights abuses and censorship.

Landmark deal

But it is by no means clear if Congress can come up with a solution to revisit the deal within 120 days, in which case the US may withdraw from the landmark deal.

European powers have urged the United States not to walk away from the pact which was negotiated by the US and several European powers. They believe that it is the best chance of ensuring the curtailment of Iran’s uranium enrichment activity.

In a joint press conference in Brussels on Thursday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany issued a plea to the United States to stay in the agreement. They were speaking following a meeting with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif.

The issue was also discussed by French president Emmanuel Macron and Mr Trump in a phone call on Thursday.

But the Trump administration indicated on Friday that it was losing patience with Iran. “The Iranian regime is the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. It enables Hizbullah, Hamas and many other terrorists to sow chaos and kill innocent people,” Mr Trump said in a statement, adding that the Iranian ruling elite had let their citizens go hungry while enriching themselves by stealing’s Iran national wealth.

Current deal

The White House is insisting Congress comes up with a solution that will allow grant wider inspection rights to international inspectors, and that the current deal – which will expire in 2025 – has no expiration date. It is also wants to address Iran’s ballistic missile programme.

The US has taken a tough line on the recent demonstrations in Iran, condemning the Iranian regime and voicing support for the protestors.

“We will not remain silent as the Iranian dictatorship represses the basic rights of its citizens and will hold Iran’s leaders accountable for any violations,” the White House said earlier this week. “The protesters in Iran are expressing legitimate grievances, including demanding an end to their government’s oppression, corruption and waste of national resources on military adventurism. Iran’s regime claims to support democracy, but when its own people express their aspirations for better lives and an end to injustice, it once again shows its true brutal nature.”