US extends Iran nuclear sanctions relief

Pauline Gross
May 19, 2017

"If they don't renew the waivers they will have a big mess on their hands", Timothy O'Toole, a sanctions attorney at a United States law firm told Financial Times.

The administration of US President Donald Trump chose to stick by the nuclear deal with Iran on Wednesday, renewing a waiver of nuclear-related sanctions despite his past criticism of the agreement. But Washington must issue periodic waivers to keep the penalties from snapping back into place, and the most recent one was set to expire this week. 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.

Remaining, unilateral USA sanctions imposed over Iran's record on human rights, terrorism and ballistic missiles development has scared many would-be foreign investors seen as indispensable to reviving an economy stunted by many years of isolation.

However, it will also impose some new sanctions against several Iranian individuals and four other organizations, including a China-based network that supplied missile-related items to a key Iranian defense entity, reports the Hill. This may be meant to "undercut the impression that Trump is softening on Iran", The Associated Press wrote. But continuing the sanctions relief requires the renewal of a six-month waiver. It says Tehran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, Houthi rebels in Yemen's civil war and the Hezbollah Shi'ite political party and militia in Lebanon, have helped destabilise the Middle East.

China has long expressed its dissatisfaction with the U.S.' use of the sanctions weapon, which frequently affects Chinese individuals and companies allegedly linked to weapons or nuclear development in Iran or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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The new sanctions came at a sensitive time for Iran, with presidential elections just two days away.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in April that Iran was complying with its side of the bargain, but has described the country as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. But the US also announced new unrelated sanctions in a bid to show it wasn't letting Tehran off the hook. 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 new sanctions, issued by the Treasury Department, cover two senior Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company, a Chinese man, and three Chinese companies.

Other reports by GizPress

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