Published: Wed, July 19, 2017
Finance | By Kristine Clayton

Washington preparing new sanctions against Tehran

Washington preparing new sanctions against Tehran

President Trump agreed on Monday to certify again that Iran is complying with an global nuclear agreement that he has strongly criticized, but only after hours of arguing with his top national security advisers, briefly upending a planned announcement as a legal deadline loomed.

The Trump administration slapped 18 Iranian individuals and groups with sanctions Tuesday for aiding the country's non-nuclear weapons programs, in a bid to show that President Donald Trump is staying tough on Iran despite his moves to let the nuclear deal stay in place for now.

While lifting nuclear-linked sanctions, the United States maintains sanctions related to Iran's ballistic missile program, human rights record and what Washington charges is its support for global terrorism.

The decision to certify that Iran is adhering to the nuclear deal came on Monday evening after extensive discussions with President Donald Trump's national security team and the State Department, US media reported.

But senior administration officials made clear that the certification was grudging and said that Trump meant to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran for ongoing "malign activities" in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism.

One talking point from White House officials on Monday was that the administration considered Iran to be in breach of the spirit, if not the letter, of the nuclear agreement because, they say, the bargain's objective was to enhance regional stability.

Zarif said this "creates the impression in Iran that the United States hostility toward Iran will never end".

By contrast, Zarif said during his years of negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal, he and former Secretary of State John Kerry "probably" spent more time with each other "than with anybody else".

The briefing was held in accordance with USA law determining that State Department must report to Congress regarding Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal every 90-day period, with the previous report made in April 2017.

Tillerson argued that allies needed more notice before stating Iran wasn't complying with the deal. Administration officials said in announcing the recertification that they would seek to better enforce the deal.

The U.S. State Department is reportedly preparing to issue a report for the second time since Trump took office certifiying that Iran is in compliance with the deal.

And for a few hours on Monday afternoon, it looked like the White House was going to tell Congress it could not certify Iran was complying, without saying Iran was in breach of the pact.

"We do expect that we will be implementing new sanctions", he said.

Mr. Trump has criticized the nuclear accord as a "horrible" deal and pledged during the campaign a year ago to withdraw the US from the pact.

The Pentagon has also repeatedly voiced concern over a string of high-profile incidents in waters off Iran involving Iranian vessels. Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the Middle East, also supporting rival groups in Syria's civil war. Other powers that brokered the nuclear deal along with the USA have said there's no appetite for renegotiating it.

A senior commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards warned the US on Monday that designating the group a terrorist organization and applying new sanctions could be perilous for USA forces in the region.

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