President Donald Trump on Friday avoided upending the nuclear deal with Iran that he has repeatedly disparaged, agreeing to waive key sanctions the US lifted as part of the deal.
But Trump warned Friday in a statement previewed by senior administration officials that that the waiver -- which must be issued every 120 days to keep the sanctions from kicking back in -- will be the last he issues. To keep the US in the nuclear agreement in the future, senior administration officials said Trump will pressure European partners to agree to impose new conditions on Iranian behavior.
Trump also slapped new sanctions on 14 individuals and entities that commit human rights abuses or support the country's ballistic missile programs, which are outside the scope of the nuclear deal. Many of those sanctions -- including one targeted at the head of Iran's judiciary -- were in response to the Iranian government's crackdown of peaceful protests that have swept the country in recent weeks.
That threat to effectively pull the US from the deal if his latest demands are not met leaves the nuclear deal in its most precarious position yet since the landmark agreement to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions was brokered between the US, five other world powers and Iran in July 2015.
Trump agreed to waive the sanctions at the urging of his top national security and foreign policy advisers, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who warned Trump that re-imposing the sanctions would likely be viewed by Iran and European allies as the US breaking its commitments under the deal, officials familiar with the matter said. US allies, including France's President Emmanuel Macron who spoke with Trump on Thursday, also urged the US President to stick with the nuclear deal.
But he only agreed to waive the sanctions after lawmakers also assured him they are making progress on delivering a legislative fix that will strengthen the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
The decision Friday is the second time Trump has agreed to issue the sanctions waiver and the latest instance in which Trump has declined to seize an opportunity to break up the Iran deal -- disappointing some of the hardline opponents of the agreement who hoped Trump would follow through on his campaign promise to tear up the deal.
Trump in October declined to certify Iran's compliance with the deal, accusing it of committing "multiple violations of the agreement," but stopped short of calling on Congress to re-impose the sanctions the US lifted under the terms of the agreement with Iran. Congress did not seek to re-impose those sanctions after Trump refused to certify Iran's compliance with the deal -- a determination the President must make every 90 days.
The new sanctions Trump approved on Friday target 14 individuals and entities who the US said have committed human rights abuses or supported the country's ballistic missile program. The targets included a top Iranian government official who oversees the sentencing and execution of juveniles in Tehran along with two other individuals, who have been responsible for ordering abuses against citizens, including the denial of medical care and access to legal representation, senior administration officials said Friday
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Electronic Warfare and Cyber Defense Organization were each labeled for acting in behalf of the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard. The Treasury Department also designated two Iranian defense industry firms that provide key maintenance and overhaul services for the military's helicopter and aircraft.
"The United States will not stand by while the Iranian regime continues to engage in human rights abuses and injustice," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday in a statement. "We are also targeting Iran's ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities, which it continues to prioritize over the economic well-being of the Iranian people."
They represented the latest effort by the administration to spotlight the protests that erupted several weeks ago in Iranian cities and condemn the Iranian government's efforts to suppress those protests.