President Donald Trump at the White House on May 16. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Trump waives nuclear sanctions, keeping deal with Iran in place


President Donald Trump waived nuclear sanctions on Iran, keeping in place the Iran nuclear deal he has derided, but added new sanctions relating to Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles.

The waiver Wednesday of sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program has been expected since last month, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Iran to be in compliance with the 2015 agreement that relieves sanctions in exchange for rollbacks in Iran’s nuclear program.

Tillerson at that time said the Trump administration would nonetheless review the terms of the deal because of Iran’s violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions related to ballistic missile testing, as well as its backing of terrorism and taking sides in regional unrest. Iran backs the Assad regime in its bid to suppress the civil war in Syria, among other involvements in the region.

Missile testing and Iran’s involvement in terrorism and regional violence were not covered by the nuclear deal, and the Obama administration kept in place sanctions targeting Iran for those activities.

Trump during his campaign had derided the nuclear deal as the worst he had ever seen and said he would reconsider it, but unlike other Republican primary candidates, he did not say he would scrap it.

Under Obama, the United States joined five other major powers in forging the pact. Pulling out in the absence of clear Iranian violations would likely upset U.S. allies and other nations involved in making the deal work.

The new sanctions, added by the Treasure Department, target two senior Iranian officials and entities based in China and Iran that are supporting Iran’s missile program.

“This administration is committed to countering Iran’s destabilizing behavior, such as Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and support to the Assad regime,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in announcing the sanctions.

Separately, the State Department said it might add new sanctions targeting Iran’s human rights abuses, which also are not covered under the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

“As we continue to closely scrutinize Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA and develop a comprehensive Iran policy, we will continue to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses with new actions,” Stuart Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, said in a release.

Jones’ remarks accompanied the State Department’s semi-annual report to Congress on sanctions targeting Iran’s human rights abuses.