The Trump administration said it would extend waivers on Iran’s nuclear sanctions Friday, keeping alive the landmark 2015 deal for at least another few months.
The waivers will be accompanied by other, targeted sanctions on Iran for human rights abuses, officials said. And President Trump is still warning that he could pull out of the nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor if fixes aren’t made soon.
In October 2017, Trump decertified the nuclear deal under U.S. law, saying the sanctions relief was disproportionate to Iran’s nuclear concessions. He contended the arrangement was contrary to America’s national security interests.
The nuclear deal with Iran has long been a point of contention, especially among Republicans who opposed it.
What is the Iran nuclear deal?
The Iran nuclear deal framework – officially the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” – was a historic agreement reached by Iran and several world powers, including the U.S., in 2015, under Barack Obama’s presidency.
In part, the deal was made to reduce Iran’s ability to produce two components used in making nuclear weapons: plutonium and uranium. In return, crippling economic sanctions on Iran were to be abated.
“Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off,” Obama said at the time. “This deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification.”
A point of contention for many opponents is the deal’s so-called “sunset clause” which would ease some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program over time.
The deal was reached after two years of negotiations.
Certification that Iran is complying with the deal must be sent to Congress every 90 days. The first under the Trump administration noted that Tehran was in compliance.
What has Trump said about it?
Ahead of Trump’s public criticism at the U.N. General Assembly in 2017, his administration slapped more than a dozen sanctions on Iranian individuals and groups in July for aiding its non-nuclear weapons program.
The sanctions froze assets in the U.S. and prevented Americans from doing business with these 18 parties.
During the presidential campaign, Trump accused Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then his opponent, for making Iran a “world power” under the nuclear deal, which he called “the highest level of incompetence.”
“If you take a look at Iran from four, five years ago, they were dying,” Trump said during an event in Virginia Beach, Va., in September 2016. “They had sanctions, they were being choked to death and they were dying. They weren’t even going to be much of a threat.”
On Twitter, Trump has referred to the agreement as “a direct national security threat,” a “catastrophe that must be stopped,” the “dumbest & most dangerous misjudgments ever entered into in history of our country” and “the best deal of any kind in history” for Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that the U.S. would pay a “high cost” if it backs out of the agreement.
What happens next?
The next deadline for extending the nuclear sanctions comes in mid-May.
The White House is hoping to secure a face-saving fix from Congress soon on the requirement for Trump to address Iran’s compliance every three months.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.