President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 5. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Trump waives Iran sanctions, but warns of changes to deal next month


President Donald Trump waived nuclear sanctions on Iran in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal he reviles, but warned that he could take dramatic action on the deal as early as next month.

Thursday was the deadline for Trump to waive sanctions targeting Iran’s nuclear sector, according to the deal, which includes a rollback of Iran’s nuclear program.

Returning from Florida, where he had visited sites hit by Hurricane Irma, Trump told reporters on Air Force One that the deal was “one of the worst” and he planned on addressing it soon.

“You’ll see what I’m going to be doing very shortly in October,” he said. “But I will say this: The Iran deal is one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen. Certainly, at a minimum, the spirit of the deal is just atrociously kept, but the Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country. It’s a deal that should have never, ever been made. And you’ll see what we’re doing in a couple of weeks. It’s going to be in October.”

According to U.S. law, Oct. 15 is the next deadline for Trump to certify that Iran is abiding by the deal. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency have certified that Iran is in compliance, but Trump says Iran is violating the “spirit” of the deal through its missile testing and military adventurism in the region.

Obama administration officials who negotiated the deal say it was never meant to address anything but the nuclear component. Removing Iran’s potential nuclear threat, they argue, freed the United States to pressure Iran in other areas.

“You’ll see. You’re going to see,” Trump said on the plane. “But we are not going to stand for what they’re doing to this country. They have violated so many different elements, but they’ve also violated the spirit of that deal. And you will see what we’ll be doing in October. It will be very evident.”

It’s not clear what Trump is contemplating, but a number of scenarios have circulated. One is that he will not certify Iranian compliance, which would put the burden on Congress to reimpose sanctions on Iran. Another is that he works with Europe to increase pressure on Iran in other areas. Some Trump advisers have cautioned that the United States should not be seen as sabotaging the deal lest it alienate its partners in the deal — including Russia, China and Western Europe.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will meet Trump next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, says he wants the deal amended to remove “sunset clauses” that allow Iran to remove some restrictions on its nuclear activities within the next decade or so.

“In eight to 10 years, according to the agreement, Iran will be able to enrich uranium on an industrial scale,” Netanyahu told CNN en Español during his South America tour this week. “That means that they can make not one bomb, but an arsenal of bombs. This agreement should be changed. It should be changed so that the removal of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program should be not a matter of the change of the calendar, but a change in Iran’s aggressive behavior.”

Separately on Thursday, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on nine individuals and eight entities it said were violating terrorism and cybersecurity-related sanctions against Iran. Also, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban the sale of replacement airplane parts to Iran. The Obama administration had removed such bans as part of the overall deal package.

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