One day later: Obama backs off new Iran sanctions

White House delays plan to impose new financial sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, a day after announcing them.

Elad Benari,

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama
Reuters

New American sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program? Not so fast.

The White House has delayed its plan to impose new financial sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, American officials said Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The announcement comes just one day after it was reported that the Obama administration is preparing new sanctions on international companies and individuals who played a role in Iran’s ballistic endeavors.

According to the officials, the decision to back off the new sanctions comes amid growing tensions with Iran over the nuclear deal struck earlier this year.

The officials said the Obama administration remains committed to combating Iran’s missile program and that sanctions being developed by the U.S. Treasury Department remain on the table. They also said imposing such penalties was legal under the landmark nuclear agreement forged between global powers and Iran in July.

But they offered no definitive timeline for when the sanctions would be imposed after the decision was made to delay them. At one point, they were scheduled to be announced Wednesday morning in Washington, according to a notification the White House sent to Congress.

In October, Iran conducted a ballistic missile test, eliciting strong condemnation from members of the UN Security Council.

A month later, it  tested another ballistic missile, and an American official said other undeclared tests occurred earlier than that.

A team of UN sanctions monitors said in a confidential report seen byReuters on December 15 that a medium-range Emad rocket that Iran tested on October 10 was a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, making it a violation of a UN Security Council resolution.

Iran, however, has rejected claims that the missiles it is testing are capable of delivering a nuclear warhead and has also rejected the idea that the missile tests are against UN resolutions.

Republican leaders on Thursday accused the Obama administration of losing its will to impose the sanctions, after Tehran countered on Thursday that it would accelerate the development of its arsenal.

“If the president’s announced sanctions ultimately aren’t executed, it would demonstrate a level of fecklessness that even the president hasn’t shown before,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), a leading critic of the nuclear deal, according to The Wall Street Journal.

President Hassan Rouhani had earlier said on Twitter that he had instructed Iran’s Ministry of Defense to accelerate the development of ballistic missiles in response to the news reports of the impending U.S. sanctions.

Asked to comment, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the timeline for missile-related sanctions was unrelated to threats made by Iran on Thursday and the broader nuclear deal recently reached with Tehran.

The State Department offered no explanation for the delay, noted The Wall Street Journal.

“We’ve been clear from the outset that—outside the parameters of Iran’s nuclear program—we would continue to take appropriate actions to address Tehran’s destabilizing behavior,” said Kirby.




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