US Extends Iran Nuke Sanctions Relief, Adds Other Sanctions

The top U.S. diplomat in charge of the Middle East said the U.S. is still forming a “comprehensive Iran policy,” alluding to Trump’s assertion that he may tear up the deal after he finishes reviewing

The top U.S. diplomat in charge of the Middle East said the U.S. is still forming a “comprehensive Iran policy,” alluding to Trump’s assertion that he may tear up the deal after he finishes reviewing

The White House is now reviewing US policy toward Iran.

The brinksmanship and its capacity to destabilize the sanctions waiver, depending upon the relationship between Trump and his Iranian counterpart after the elections, has oil traders on the edge of their seats.

All five remaining candidates in the race have said they would uphold the nuclear deal. However since assuming the presidency, he has tempered his position, suggesting that he is studying the accord with an eye for its details, and that he is yet to reach a final position on its contents. The move to extend the sanctions relief in the meantime was another indication Trump may be laying the groundwork to let the deal stand.

Since the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015 in which Iran agreed to rein in elements of its nuclear program in exchange for partial sanctions relief from the US and the European Union (EU), Iran has been able to more than double its supply of oil to the market.

In a statement, Stuart Jones, an acting assistant secretary at State, said the administration would continue to waive sanctions as required under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. "And above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire nuclear weapons".

Tellingly, news of the nuclear sanctions waiver was only mentioned in the fourth paragraph of a State Department media note titled "US State Department Issues Report on Human Rights Sanctions on Iran".

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"Last month the Treasury Department imposed the first human rights-related sanctions designations against Iranian individuals and entities since December 2014, and we will continue to pursue initiatives around the world that uphold our core values of promoting and protecting human rights", said Jones.

Prior to the latest round of sanctions, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif said the US opponents of the JCPOA "try to cause tumultuous atmosphere and the aim behind escalation of sanctions is just to raise hue and cry". Iran will hold is presidential election on Friday, May 19, and sees the incumbent moderate president Rouhani face off with a conservative hard-line challenger, Ebrahim Raisi.

The decision poses a major challenge to Trump, who has been critical of the deal.

The Treasury said it had added two Iranian defense officials and an Iranian business to its sanctions lists, accusing them of aiding the missile program or supplying explosives to Syria. The Syrian agency produces non-conventional weapons such as the chemical weapons that Assad's forces used earlier this year.

Iran will continue its missile program in line with its "inalienable and legal right" to upgrade the country's defensive capabilities, according to Islamic Republic's foreign ministry.

Iran signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015, agreeing to significantly curb operations at its nuclear facilities in return for the lifting of worldwide oil and banking sanctions.

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