US sanctions Iran despite nuclear deal compliance
Tehran has received ‘contradictory signals’ from Trump
WASHINGTON: The US slapped fresh sanctions on Iran yesterday over its ballistic missile program, just hours after Washington admitted the Islamic Republic was complying with a landmark nuclear deal signed two years ago. Iran’s parliament retaliated by voting for extra funding for the missile program, a move that speaker Ali Larijani said would show the Americans that Iran “will resist them with all its power”.
The heightened tensions came after President Donald Trump was forced to back off from a key campaign promise to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran, which eased sanctions in return for limiting its ability to produce material for atomic weapons. Trump had described it as “the worst deal ever” and accused Iran of continuing to back terrorism in the Middle East.
But on Monday, the White House admitted that the Islamic Republic was sticking to the nukes agreement. It noted, however, that while Iran might be meeting its requirements on paper, it was “unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the accord. In announcing the new sanctions against 18 individuals and entities in Iran, the State Department said it “remains deeply concerned about Iran’s malign activities across the Middle East which undermine regional stability, security, and prosperity.”
It cited Iran’s support for Hezbollah, Hamas, the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting a US-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia. In addition to earmarking an additional $260 million for its ballistic missile program, Iran’s
parliament also agreed yesterday to allot a similar amount to the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations wing, the Quds Force, accused by Washington of fomenting unrest across the region.
The Pentagon has also repeatedly voiced concern over a string of high-profile incidents in waters off Iran involving Iranian vessels. It has accused the Revolutionary Guards of conducting risky maneuvers around US warships in the Gulf, some of which resulted in the Americans firing warning shots. “These sanctions target procurement of advanced military hardware, such as fast attack boats and unmanned aerial vehicles, and send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilizing behavior,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Washington is also concerned about the fate of Xiyue Wang, a 37-year-old Chinese-American researcher at Princeton University who was recently sentenced to 10 years in Iranian prison.
While the US complained about Iran’s defiance of the spirit of the nuclear accord, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would make his own complaints about US non-compliance when representatives of the five nuclear powers - China, Russia, France, Britain, the United States - plus Germany meet in Vienna on Friday to take stock of the deal. Zarif accused the Trump administration of failing to lift sanctions in line with the deal. Zarif said the International Atomic Energy Agency, “which is hardly a sympathizer for Iran,” has verified its compliance with the agreement.
The key issue with the US, he said, is over sanctions against Iran that the agreement requires to be lifted and the sanctions that remain on Iran over human rights, terrorism and other issues. Zarif said that for the United States “it’s more important to maintain the sanctions that remain” on Iran “rather than remove the sanctions that have been lifted”. As a result, he said, the Office of Foreign Asset Control “has been reluctant to provide straightforward answers to those who want to do business with Iran because it was worried that a straight-forward answer would undermine the sanctions” that haven’t been lifted.
Zarif said this “creates the impression in Iran that the United States’ hostility toward Iran will never end.” But he left open the possibility of changing that perception, saying: “I think that can be remedied.” Responding to a question about whether Iran has received any signals from the Trump administration, positive or negative, Zarif said: “We receive contradictory signals. So we don’t know which one to interpret in what way. But it’s very clear that Iran is serious about the nuclear deal and we believe that the nuclear deal can lay the foundation, not the ceiling.”
Zarif said he had no communication with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in stark contrast to his predecessor John Kerry, with whom Zarif negotiated the groundbreaking nuclear deal. “It doesn’t mean there can’t be. The possibilities for engagement... have always been open,” said Zarif in New York, where he was attending a UN forum on development. He said he was willing to discuss Wang’s case “on humanitarian grounds” but stressed that Iran’s courts were independent of the government.
Trump and his top security officials have always taken a tough line on Iran: His defense secretary, Jim Mattis, fought Iranian-backed militias during the US occupation of Iraq while serving as a Marine general, and memories are still fresh of Hezbollah’s attack on the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon in 1983.— Agencies
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump swings a Marucci baseball bat in the Blue Room during a “Made in America” product showcase event at the White House on Monday. — AFP