Iran's Foreign Ministry on Saturday issued a statement slamming President Trump's Friday announcement of 14 new U.S. sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities, most notably the head of the country's judicial system, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani. The statement labels Larijani's inclusion a "hostile and illegal act," accusing the Trump administration of going "way beyond all internationally accepted behavior red lines." Iran promised a "severe" response, laying responsibility for all consequences on Washington.
The sanctions were leveled in connection to the Iranian government's treatment of anti-regime demonstrators at protests in late December and early January. They are separate from the sanctions addressed by the Iran nuclear deal. Larijani is accused of involvement in executing minors.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also objected to Trump's 120-day deadline for changes to the Iran deal, saying the deal is "not renegotiable" and Trump is engaged in "desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement." Bonnie Kristian
Trump signs waiver to uphold the Iran deal for 120 more days as officials insist this is 'the last time'
President Trump has again signed a waiver to uphold the terms of the Iran nuclear deal, setting a deadline of 120 days for European partners to overhaul the pact or else the U.S. will reimpose deal-breaking sanctions, The New York Times reports. Trump has dubbed the agreement with Iran "the worst deal ever," and is reportedly pressuring EU signatories to make uranium enrichment restrictions on Iran permanent, rather than allow them to expire in 2025, the BBC reports. The new deal insisted on by Trump would also need to allow for the inspection of Iranian facilities, with sanctions to be reimposed if Iran refused, and have an amendment added classifying Iran's long-ranging missile program as "inseparable" from its nuclear program, Al Arabiya reports.
"This is the last time [Trump will] issue waivers [on sanctions] unless they reach an agreement," said top White House officials. Trump called it the "last chance" and added "no one should doubt my word. I said I would not certify the nuclear deal — and I did not. I will also follow through on this pledge."
As Trump has been threatening to withdraw from the deal since his candidacy, Iran's vice president Eshagh Jahangiri responded to the news by saying: "If the Americans withdraw from the nuclear deal, we will not hold a mourning service; we are fully prepared for any likely event." Regional experts warn that if the U.S. was to truly withdraw, it would "play into the hands of hard-liners in the country," the Times writes.
So far, Europe has showed no sign of taking Trump up on renegotiating a deal. "The Iran nuclear deal makes the world safer," said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Thursday. "European partners were unanimous today in our determination to preserve the deal and tackle Iran's disruptive behavior." Jeva Lange
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and several of President Trump's other senior advisers have spent the last several months coming up with a plan that takes into account Trump's anger over the Iran nuclear deal without completely killing the agreement, seven people with knowledge of the situation told The Washington Post.
In mid-July, the Post says, a "furious" Trump argued with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and others who said while the 2015 deal, brokered by former President Barack Obama, was not perfect, it offered stability. Trump "threw a fit," a person familiar with the meeting told the Post. That's when McMaster took the lead on crafting a plan that would get Trump to compromise.
Congressional leaders were briefed on the plan Wednesday, and Trump is expected to announce it to the public on either Thursday or Friday. It's believed Trump will say the Iran deal is not in America's national interest, and he might announce new sanctions or penalties on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Post reports. He will pass the buck to Congress, and they will decide what to do next with the deal.
It was Congress that made it a requirement for the president to recommit to the Iran deal every 90 days, and many leaders, as well as Trump advisers, believe that the agreement is an important tool in protecting the world from an Iranian nuclear bomb. Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told the Post that Trump's fury stems from his ongoing obsession with the last president. "He doesn't want to certify the Iran deal for more domestic reasons than international ones," he said. "He doesn't want to certify that any piece of the Obama strategy is working." Catherine Garcia
Iran threatened Tuesday to pull out of the Obama-brokered nuclear deal "within hours" over the United States' decision to impose new sanctions on the country, Reuters and Al Jazeera report. "Those who try to return to the language of threats and sanctions are prisoners of their past delusions," said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a televised address. "If [the United States wants] to go back to that experience, definitely in a short time, not weeks or months, but in the scale of hours and days, we will return to our previous situation very much more stronger."
Iran agreed in the 2015 deal with the U.S., Russia, China, and three European powers to curb its nuclear program in order to be protected against new sanctions. Under Trump, the U.S. Treasury has since imposed sanctions on six Iranian firms over Iran's development of a ballistic missile program, which Iran claims is exempt from the treaty, in addition to Congress' newly proposed sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea, signed into law by Trump in August.
"The world has clearly seen that under Trump, America has ignored international agreements and, in addition to undermining the [nuclear deal], has broken its word on the Paris agreement and the Cuba accord," added Rouhani.
Trump has expressed his own frustrations with the Iran deal; he confirmed in July that Iran was complying with the nuclear agreement despite it being "a bad deal for the United States," The New York Times reports. "We receive contradictory signals," said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the time. "So we don't know which one to interpret in what way." Jeva Lange
The Trump administration will leave in place former President Barack Obama's so-called "Iran deal," renewing waivers that allow companies to do business with the nation, BuzzFeed News reports. The Treasury Department will, on the other hand, add sanctions to two Iranian defense officials and one Iranian entity in relation to ballistic missile development.
With the addition of the ballistic missile sanctions, BuzzFeed News notes that the Trump administration's actions "represent a significantly more aggressive approach to Iran than under the Obama administration, but stop short of an all-out abandonment of the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Iran and world powers including the U.S. and Russia." President Trump previously slammed the Iran deal as "disastrous," and administration officials were reportedly divided on dropping the deal or not. Many Western European allies support the deal and encouraged the Trump administration to stick with it.
Iran votes next week on a president; current leader Hassan Rouhani helped orchestrate the Iran deal while his opposition, Ebrahim Raisi, is positioned more firmly against dealings with the United States. Jeva Lange
Boeing announced Tuesday that it has agreed to sell up to 60 airplanes, valued at $6 billion, to an Iranian airline, even as the Trump administration has expressed its animosity toward Tehran, The Wall Street Journal reports. Boeing said it has nevertheless received early permission from the U.S. government to move ahead with the sale, although it still needs to be approved by the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
In March 2016, Trump stated: "My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran." He was referring to the Obama administration's agreement over a year ago to remove sanctions on Iran in return for the country voluntarily curbing its nuclear programs. As part of the deal, Boeing and Airbus won billion-dollar deals to sell planes to Iran Air. Tuesday's sale is to the privately-owned Iran Aseman Airlines.
Boeing said Tuesday that based on government data, "an aerospace sale of this magnitude creates or sustains approximately 18,000 jobs." It remains to be seen if Trump will indicate support for the deal, perhaps simply by not criticizing it on Twitter. Jeva Lange
In a speech at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton laid out a case for the Iran nuclear deal, arguing that the deal may not be perfect, but that "those of us who have been out there on the diplomatic front lines know that diplomacy is not the pursuit of perfection. It's the balancing of risk."
But woven in among the rebuttal of Republican attacks on the accord, notes Anne Gearan at The Washington Post, Clinton "signaled clear disagreement with her former boss," repeatedly pointing to "instances overseas where she would have taken a tougher stance than Obama, from arming Syrian rebels to confronting an expansionist Russia." Moving to Obama's right on foreign policy — and recounting policy fights she lost as secretary of state — poses some risk for Clinton, Gearan adds:
The critique, delivered as part of a Washington speech focused on the Iran nuclear deal, was in many respects subtle — wrapped inside overall praise for Obama and never targeting him directly. But the differences were nonetheless striking for a candidate who has worked carefully to soften her hawkish national security reputation and who badly needs Obama’s liberal coalition of voters to gain the White House. [The Washington Post]
You can see some of Clinton's fighting words in this excerpt of her Brookings speech below. Peter Weber
While Democrats in Congress finish sorting out whether or not they support the nuclear deal the Obama administration negotiated with Iran and five world powers, the fight among Republicans is over how much they hate the accord. With the bill to disapprove the Iran deal dead in the water, thanks to ample Democratic support to at least sustain President Obama's veto, Republicans in the House are split over the wisdom of trying for a legislative end run. Congress has until Sept. 17 to formally disapprove of the measure.
Senate Republicans plan to forge ahead toward a vote of disapproval, but conservatives in the House delayed debate on that measure, leading to an emergency Plan B hatched by House GOP leaders Wednesday night. The plan involves three votes: One to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions on Iran, a second to show that a bill approving the deal would fail, and a third to argue that the 60-day clock to vote on the bill hadn't started yet because, conservatives say, Obama did not present Congress with all the details of the Iran deal, specifically two side deals negotiated between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The House measures won't stop the Iran deal from going into effect, but House conservatives say it will lay the groundwork for a possible lawsuit against the Obama administration. "He hasn't complied with the law," Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) said of Obama. Democrats rolled their eyes. "Everywhere Republican leaders look this fall, there's potential disaster lurking thanks to their hard-right members determined to hold the government hostage unless they get everything they want," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), one of the Democrats who is voting with Republicans against the Iran deal. Peter Weber