Trump reluctantly grants sanctions waivers to Iran, keeps U.S. in nuclear deal

Trump, who has promised to withdraw from the 2015 Iran deal repeatedly, has extended the lifeline for what he said will be the last time.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the agreement with Iran as "the worst deal ever."  CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to the agreement with Iran as "the worst deal ever." CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

In a White House background call on Friday, senior administration officials confirmed that President Donald Trump will waive sanctions on Friday one last time.

“The president’s decision is to waive, once more, the nuclear sanctions that the terms of the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) require the United States to waive in order to remain in the deal. But in the statement, the president will also make clear that this is the last such waiver he will issue,” said the official who cannot be named under the terms of the press briefing.

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The official added that President Trump intends to “work with our European partners on some kind of follow-on agreement that enshrines certain triggers that the Iranian regime cannot exceed related to ballistic missiles, related to nuclear breakout period that holds them to one year or less, would hold them to inspections and would have no sunset clause.”

Iran, which has always maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful, signed the deal with the United States, U.K., France, Russia, China, and Germany in 2015, allowing for repeated inspections of its nuclear facility in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump, he said, would agree to stay in the JCPOA if the agreement would “never expire” and would not entail direct negotiations with Iran, but only with the European partners only, all of which on Thursday stated their support for the JCPOA in meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Brussels.

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Another senior official at the White House briefing noted that the Treasury Department will apply new sanctions to 14 individuals and entities in Iran, including Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, as well as entities and individuals the United States holds responsible for human rights abuses, censorship, and those who proliferate “weapons of mass destruction and their supporters.” Broadly, the sanctions are intended to target Iran’s “destabilizing behavior.”

This is in addition to the five entities in Iran sanctioned last week and previous sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program.

President Trump is required to recertify the JCPOA every 90 days in compliance with U.S. law, affirming that Iran has complied with the terms of the agreement and that the deal remains in the best interest of the U.S. In October, Trump refused to recertify the deal, leaving open the door for Congress to snap back economic sanctions on Iran.

Congress, however, did not act within the 60-day allotted by law.

President Trump has several grievances with Iran and the deal, chief among them what is known as the “sunset” clause or provision. The deal, as it stands, has Iran reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent for the next 13 years, as well as reducing its number of gas centrifuges, among other things. The country’s uranium enrichment will only be carried out in a single facility for a decade, and Iran will be subject to the most stringent U.N. nuclear inspections of any country.

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The fact that the agreement is not a “forever” deal is seen by Trump as giving Iran a path to the nuclear weapons Iran has always maintained were not its goal. Additionally, the Trump administration has accused Iran of being a destabilizing force in the region, supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and anti-government Houthi rebels in Yemen.