Trump Plans Extension of Iran Sanctions Waivers, Official Says

Updated on
  • White House weighs new sanctions on missiles, human rights
  • Congress also considering measure to toughen Iran restrictions
Former Sen. Lieberman Says Iran Run by 'Bunch of Thugs'

U.S. President Donald Trump plans to extend waivers on sanctions against Iran mandated under the 2015 nuclear deal while preparing new sanctions targeting human rights and cyber violations allowed under the accord, according to two administration officials familiar with the matter.

Trump must decide by Friday whether to continue relief from 2012 sanctions that cut off Iran’s central bank from the global financial system. Waiving those restrictions was required under the agreement that Iran reached with world powers in exchange for curbing its nuclear program, and reimposing them would effectively scuttle the deal.

The officials, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations, both stressed that no final decision had been made and said the administration’s plans could change at any time.

A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Trump would make a final decision Thursday. The president is scheduled to meet with his national security team at the White House that afternoon. 

Trump has repeatedly railed against the nuclear accord, calling it the “worst deal ever.” In October, in a measure required every 90 days under U.S. law, Trump declined to certify that the agreement was in U.S. national security interests.

The administration’s intention to continue waiving the sanctions was reported earlier on Wednesday by the Associated Press.

The new sanctions under consideration would be intended to address Iran’s aggression, from its development of ballistic missiles to maritime activity to cyber and human rights violations, said one of the officials.

Read a QuickTake on how Iran’s economy has struggled

Trump and his advisers have been vocal in condemning Tehran’s treatment of protesters who took to the streets in recent weeks to voice anger over low wages and lack of economic opportunity. More than 20 people have been killed and 1,000 arrested since the demonstrations began. The White House released another statement on Wednesday calling for the release of all political prisoners, including those swept up amid the protests.

“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,” the statement said.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been working on legislation to keep the nuclear deal in place but tighten restrictions on Iran by amending the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or Inara.

Congress passed that law in 2015 as a way to gain some leverage over the nuclear agreement. The accord wasn’t written or signed by the participating countries as a treaty, which probably would have been voted down by the U.S. Congress and by lawmakers in Tehran.

‘Fix It’

Nuclear-related sanctions that were waived under the 2015 deal stem from four separate pieces of legislation. Those laws all grant the president the power to waive the restrictions but set different timetables for how frequently he must do so. As it happens, those deadlines all fall due in the next several days.

The decision to extend the waivers isn’t a surprise because reimposing the sanctions would sabotage the nuclear deal and render irrelevant the discussions the administration is having with Congress about amending Inara. All of the other participants in the deal -- including U.S. allies in Europe -- have said Iran is honoring its end of the agreement and that they oppose ending or reopening it.

In an interview with the AP last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said changes to the law could come this week or next.

“The president said he is either going to fix it or cancel it,” Tillerson said in the interview, according to the AP. “We are in the process of trying to deliver on the promise he made to fix it.”

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs

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