The Trump administration has announced that it will continue nuclear sanctions relief for Iran, keeping in place an Obama-era deal.
Under the 2015 deal, sanctions punishing Iran for its nuclear program were
waived in exchange for Iran's commitment to roll back the program. But
continuing the sanctions relief requires the renewal of a six-month waiver. The
most recent waiver, issued by former Secretary of State John Kerry in December,
was set to expire this week.
But the administration also imposed unrelated sanctions on two Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company and members of a China-based network for supporting Iran's ballistic missile program.
"Iran continues to pursue missile related technologies capable of delivering a nuclear weapon," Washington's top diplomat for the Middle East, Stuart Jones, said, noting that the missile program is in breach of internationally backed U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"The State Department will continue to partner with our colleagues at the Department of the Treasury to ensure our national security in the face of Iranian threats."
Jones said the U.S. is still forming a "comprehensive Iran policy,'' alluding to President Donald Trump's assertion that he may tear up the deal after he finishes reviewing it. In the meantime, Jones said, the U.S. will keep implementing the deal, including the sanctions relief.
Human rights still a concern
The State Department also released a new report criticizing Iran for human
Jones said the U.S. will continue to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses with new actions. "Whether it is imprisoning people arbitrarily, inflicting physical abuse and torture, or executing juvenile offenders, the Iranian regime has for decades committed egregious human rights violations against its own people and foreign nations, and this pattern of behavior must come to an end."
He also called on Iran to immediately release Americans detained in the country.
The announcements and the report comes just days before Iran holds presidential elections that pit President Hassan Rouhani against several conservative opponents. It also comes ahead of Trump's five-day trip to the region.
Iran Responds to New US Sanctions With More of Its Own
Iran announced plans Thursday to sanction nine U.S. individuals and companies
in response to what it called an "unacceptable, illegal" decision by the United
States to impose new sanctions in connection with Iran's ballistic missile
An Iranian Foreign Ministry statement said those sanctioned violated human rights through direct or indirect links to Israeli government crimes in Palestinian territories or by supporting terrorists. It said their names would be announced later.
Iran has insisted it was not working toward building nuclear weapons, and on
Thursday reiterated its stance that its missile program is both legal and part
of its right to self-defense.
The announcement of new U.S. sanctions came as President Donald Trump extended relief from sanctions linked to Iran's nuclear program, as part of the 2015 international agreement to limit Iranian nuclear activity.
Under that deal, sanctions punishing Iran for its nuclear program were waived in exchange for Iran's commitment to roll back its nuclear activity in ways that would ensure it could not develop nuclear weapons. The sanctions relief requires a waiver that must be renewed every six months.
Jones said the U.S. is still forming a "comprehensive Iran policy,'' alluding to Trump's assertion that he may tear up the nuclear deal after he finishes reviewing it. In the meantime, Jones said, the U.S. will keep implementing the deal, including the sanctions relief.
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