US extends nuclear sanctions relief for Iran but adds other sanctions

Stuart Jones, the senior US diplomat in charge of the Middle East, said Washington was 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, Mr Jones said, the US will keep implementing the deal

The most recent sanctions waiver was issued in December by former US secretary of state John Kerry, pictured here on September 9, 2015 during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Washington on the Iran nuclear deal. Susan Walsh, File / AP Photo
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WASHINGTON // The Trump administration said on Wednesday it will continue granting nuclear sanctions relief to Iran, keeping the Obama-era nuclear deal intact for now.

But the United States also announced new unrelated sanctions in a bid to show it wasn’t letting Tehran off the hook.

Under the 2015 deal, sanctions punishing Iran for its nuclear programme were waived in exchange for Tehran’s commitment to roll back the programme. But continuing the sanctions relief requires the renewal of a six-month waiver. The most recent waiver, issued by former US secretary of state John Kerry in December, was set to expire this week.

Stuart Jones, the senior US diplomat in charge of the Middle East, said Washington was 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, Mr Jones said, the US will keep implementing the deal – including the sanctions relief.

“This ongoing review does not diminish the United States’ resolve to continue countering Iran’s destabilising activity in the region, whether it be supporting the Assad regime, backing terrorist organisations like Hizbollah, or supporting violent militias that undermine governments in Iraq and Yemen,” Mr Jones said.

“And above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Aiming to undercut the perception that Mr Trump is softening on Iran, the US paired the announcement with new sanctions punishing Tehran for its ballistic missiles programme. Under the nuclear deal, Washington can continue sanctioning Iran for other, non-nuclear actions, although Tehran has threatened to pull out of the deal if the US and other countries do so.

The new economic sanctions announced on Wednesday target Iranian military officials, the US state department said, along with an Iranian entity and a network based in China that are accused of supplying Iran with materials for ballistic missiles. The state department also released a new report criticising Iran for human rights abuses, including the alleged mistreatment of prisoners.

* Associated Press