The Trump administration has decided not to torpedo the historic nuclear deal with Iran and is renewing key waivers that allow foreign companies to do business with the Islamic Republic, two administration officials tell BuzzFeed News. At the same time, the Treasury Department is set to sanction seven targets, including two Iranian defense officials, for activities related to missile development, the officials said.
The State Department will also issue a report that condemns Iran for human rights violations, a move that comes two days before Iran’s presidential elections.
The actions, set to take place on Wednesday, represent a significantly more aggressive approach to Iran than under the Obama administration but stop short of an all-out abandonment of the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Iran and world powers including the US and Russia.
The existence of the new Treasury sanctions and State Department human rights report have not previously been reported.
US allies, including Germany, France and Britain, have urged the Trump administration against walking away from the deal, which lifted a raft of economic sanctions against Tehran in exchange for strict curbs on its nuclear program.
The Trump administration’s decision comes at crucial moment for US-Iranian relations. The waivers, which exempt foreign companies that do business with Iran from US sanctions still on the books, will expire before Iranian’s go to the polls to elect their next president on Friday.
The waivers are a central component of the Iran deal that President Hassan Rouhani, the incumbent, has built his reputation on. He faces Ebrahim Raisi, a leading conservative candidate who takes a harder line against the United States and the West. In Iran, the nuclear deal is unpopular with some conservatives who say it has failed to deliver the economic benefits promised by Rouhani.
The deal is also controversial inside the Trump administration, with some officials pushing for the US to walk away from the agreement and others urging more restraint.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump took a range of positions, saying he would vigorously enforce the deal on some days and vowing to “dismantle the disastrous deal” on other days.
Since taking office, the Trump administration has certified that Iran is “compliant” with the deal, but has ordered an interagency review of US-Iran policy. It has also increased non-nuclear related sanctions against the regime, heightening long-simmering tensions between the two adversaries.
The newly-sanctioned targets include a China-based network that the US accuses of "supporting Iran's military by supplying millions of dollars' worth of missile-applicable items."
“This administration is committed to countering Iran’s destabilizing behavior, such as Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and support to the Assad regime,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement later on Wednesday. “It is alarming that individuals involved with Iran’s missile program are assisting the brutal Assad regime, and we are taking action to curtail this behavior.”
The State Department report on Iran’s human rights abuses, which is submitted to Congress on a semi-annual basis, will review the human rights sanctions that have been issued in the last six months, including individuals added to the US sanctions list in April due to abuses at Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Trump's decision to renew the sanctions waivers was first reported by Reuters.
John Hudson is a foreign affairs reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact John Hudson at email@example.com.
Ema O'Connor is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Ema O'Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.