Iran-sanction waivers extended
The United States on Thursday waived nuclear-related sanctions on Iran but slapped new ones on 11 companies and individuals linked…
The United States on Thursday waived nuclear-related sanctions on Iran but slapped new ones on 11 companies and individuals linked to the country’s ballistic missile program and cyberattacks on U.S. companies several years ago.
The new sanctions on non-nuclear matters signal President Donald Trump’s determination to confront Tehran over actions the United States considers destabilizing to the region and in defiance of the intent of the 2015 nuclear deal.
“The administration seeks to bring a change in Iran’s behavior,” said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The official cited Iran’s ballistic missile tests, support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, backing of militias fighting in neighboring countries and human-rights abuses, including the detention of several U.S. citizens.
Officials in President Barack Obama’s administration who negotiated the agreement acknowledged the other matters were problematic but said it was preferable to confront an Iran that is not armed with nuclear weapons.
Though the Trump administration extended existing waivers on Iran’s oil and banking sectors, which were suspended when the nuclear deal took effect in January 2016, U.S. officials described the extension as a “holding action” until Trump decides next month whether to declare that Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“This is an action the United States is taking in the interim while the president and his Cabinet come to a final decision … about what U.S. policy pertaining to the [plan of action] will be,” said another official who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
In comments to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump repeated his campaign pronouncement that the nuclear deal is bad and again said he believes Iran is violating its terms.
“The Iran deal is one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Not a fair deal to this country. It’s a deal that should have never ever been made. You’ll see what we’re doing. … It’s going to be in October.”
“We are not going to stand for what they are doing to this country,” Trump said. “They have violated so many elements but they have also violated the spirit of that deal.”
Eight times since the agreement took effect last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency has determined that Iran was upholding its end. But administration officials repeatedly have accused Iran of violating the “spirit” of the deal and undermining the goal of peace.
In London earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said a review of the Iran deal and U.S. policy toward the country is still underway.
“We must take into account the totality of Iranian threats, not just its nuclear capabilities,” he said, citing obligations to uphold regional and international security.
“Iran is clearly in defiance of these obligations,” Tillerson said, pointing to its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, cyber activity and testing of ballistic missiles.
Tillerson said the expectation of the deal was that Iran would stop being a destabilizing factor in the region. “In our view, Iran is clearly in default of the expectations,” he said.
The nuclear deal eased economic sanctions that were imposed over concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and were designed to get the Iranian government to the negotiating table. But the deal that came out of those talks left numerous other sanctions in place.
The Treasury Department added more sanctions Thursday, targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a hard-line branch of the armed forces that has opposed the nuclear deal and aspires to keep Iran pure of Western influences, even though it profits from smuggling Western goods into the country.
Among the companies sanctioned by the Treasury Department was SABA, an Iranian engineering firm that provides cranes to a Revolutionary Guard unit that develops ballistic missiles. Also sanctioned were two Ukrainian companies said to provide airline services, equipment and crews used by the Revolutionary Guard to ferry weapons and personnel from Iran to Syria.
Sanctions also were imposed on two private Iranian computer security companies, ITSec Team and Mersad. U.S. officials said the firms had helped pull off attacks on nine U.S. banks and stock exchanges in 2011 and 2012 and done other work for the Iranian government and Revolutionary Guard. Seven Iranian employees of the firms also were sanctioned.
The waivers were widely anticipated, even though Trump has been increasingly irritated at having to renew parts of a deal he has labeled as disastrous and vowed to dismantle. The administration has been laying the groundwork for the next major deadline Oct. 15, when Trump must decide whether to certify that Iran is meeting its obligations under the nuclear agreement.
If Trump decides to decertify Iran, Congress will have 60 days to determine whether to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions and effectively renege on U.S. promises under the deal. That means Congress would be grappling with Iran at the same time that it will have to pass a budget.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was preparing for a change in policy.
“We’re working hand in hand with the White House and with the State Department to be prepared to deal with this issue depending on the outcome,” he said. “I have a sense of where it’s going. I know that could change — I mean, international occurrences sometimes change the trajectory of these issues — but yes, we are definitely preparing.”
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, laid out the case for decertification earlier this month, saying the agreement does not serve U.S. national interests.
Trump told The Wall Street Journal he is leaning toward not certifying Iran’s compliance the next time, although he has certified it twice before.
Information for this article was contributed by Carol Morello of The Washington Post and by Matthew Lee of The Associated Press.
A Section on 09/15/2017
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Iran-sanction waivers extended