Will Trump extend Iran sanctions relief?

Officials say Trump is expected to extend relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of 2015 nuclear deal.

Elad Benari,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to extend relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The decision, expected this week, is due to progress in amending U.S. legislation that governs Washington’s participation in the deal, said the officials.

Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions to Tehran with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people, the six people briefed on the matter told AP. The restrictions could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were scrapped under the 2015 nuclear agreement, a decision that could test Tehran’s willingness to abide by its side of the bargain.

The individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity, cautioned that Trump could still reject the recommendation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster and added that no final decision had been made. They said heated discussions were going on within the administration and with key Republican lawmakers.

The State Department and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In October, Trump refused to certify that Iran was complying with the deal, also known by its acronym JCPOA, but did not re-impose sanctions or abandon the deal itself. He now must decide by Friday to extend the nuclear-related sanctions relief for Iran’s central bank or re-impose the restrictions that President Barack Obama suspended two years ago.

A senior State Department official told reporters Wednesday that Tillerson and Mattis would be meeting with Trump on the matter before an announcement Friday, noted AP.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the Iran deal, one of Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements, as the worst ever negotiated by the U.S.

Last week, amid the ongoing anti-government protests in Iran, Trump again blasted Obama and the deal, saying that the money transferred to Iran never benefitted the Iranian people, and was instead funneled to terrorist organizations.

“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!” he tweeted.

Iranian officials have blasted Trump over his decision not to certify the deal. Iran's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, warned Trump of a "reciprocal measure" if sanctions were reimposed on his country.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to expand Iran's ballistic missile program in response to Trump's move.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said Tehran will stick to the agreement as long as the other signatories do, but will “shred” the deal if Washington pulls out.

On Monday, Iran threatened to reconsider its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog, if the United States failed to respect its commitments in the nuclear deal.