US President Donald Trump today decided not to re-impose sanctions on Iran, keeping the 2015 landmark nuclear deal alive, even as his Administration announced another round of tough sanctions on 14 individuals and entities of the Islamic Republic.
In a background briefing, senior administration officials said this was Trump's "waiver" on Iran whose sanctions were lifted in 2015 under the landmark nuclear deal signed between th Islamic Republic and six world powers.
"The president will also make clear that this is the last such waiver he will issue," a senior administration official said.
"He 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... to inspection and that would have no sunset clause," the official said.
"If the president can get that agreement that meets his objectives and that never expires, that as he said in his October Iran strategy speech that denies Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon, but forever, not for 10 years or any other shorter period of time, he would be open to remaining in such a modified deal," said another administration official.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Issuing designations for 14 individuals and entities, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US will not stand by while the Iranian regime continues to engage in human rights abuses and injustice.
"We are targeting the Iranian regime, including the head of Iran's judiciary, for its appalling mistreatment of its citizens, including those imprisoned solely for exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly, and for censoring its own people as they stand up in protest against their government," he said.
"We are also targeting Iran's ballistic missile programme and destabilising activities, which it continues to prioritise over the economic well-being of the Iranian people," Mnuchin said.
Among those included are Iran and China-based procurement network, Chinese national Shi Yuhua, two Iranian defence industry firm Helicopter Support and Renewal Company and Iran Aircraft Industries, Malaysia-based Green Wave Telecommunication and Iranian Motes Razavi, Iran's Supreme Council for Cyberspace and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Electronic Warfare and Cyber Defense Organisation.
Senior administration officials alleged that over the past couple of weeks, Iran's malign activity has been in full display.
"This includes its human rights abuses and censorship of protesters, including those held in Iranian prisons, as well as their continued developments of threatening weapons systems," the official said.
The nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers - the US, UK, Russia, France, China, and Germany calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.
In turn, Iran would be allowed to lift all nuclear- related economical sanctions, freeing up tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue and frozen assets.
Trump declared in October that the agreement was "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into", and warned that within a few years Iran would be able to "sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout".
He accused Iran of committing "multiple violations" and promised to work with Congress to "address the deal's many serious flaws".
According to the senior administration official, Trump's decision is to waive once more the nuclear sanctions that the terms of the JCPOA require the US to waive in order to remain in the deal.
The official insisted that this would not entail direct negotiations with the Iranians.
This would be something the United States works out with our European partners only.
It would be an agreement amongst the United States and our European partners to reimpose multilateral sanctions, should the Iranians surpass the new triggers that we would lay out," the official said.
Trump yesterday told reporters that he will soon take a decision whether or not to re-impose sanctions lifted under the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has already declared that he no longer considers the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers to be in the United States' national interest.
He, however, has continued to follow the example of his predecessor Barack Obama in regularly signing sanctions waivers so that US economic measures against Tehran do not "snap back."
The deadlines for a number of these waivers to be renewed will fall over the coming week, and Trump is obliged to decide whether or not to maintain sanctions relief.