Trump waives reim­pos­ing Iran sanc­tions — for now

But the pres­i­dent sets a 120-day dead­line to over­haul the deal

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - WORLD - By Mark Lan­dler

WASHINGTON >> Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump again stopped short of reim­pos­ing puni­tive sanc­tions on Iran that could break up its nu­clear deal with world pow­ers, the White House said Fri­day. But Trump gave Euro­pean al­lies only

120 days to agree to an over­haul of the deal or ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said he would pull the United States out of it.

He also ap­proved sanc­tions against the head of Iran’s ju­di­ciary, Sadeq Lar­i­jani, a pow­er­ful fig­ure whom the ad­min­is­tra­tion holds cul­pa­ble for the vi­o­lent crack­down on re­cent anti-gov­ern­ment protests.

Lar­i­jani is the most prom­i­nent of sev­eral Ira­nian of­fi­cials and en­ti­ties black­listed, a ros­ter of 14 in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties that also in­cludes the cy­ber unit of the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps, which the United States said has re­pressed so­cial me­dia net­works that protesters can use to share in­for­ma­tion.

Trump’s ac­tion, which was widely ex­pected, is the third time he has given a re­prieve to the agree­ment bro­kered by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, de­spite hav­ing la­beled it “the worst deal ever” and threat­en­ing re­peat­edly to rip it up.

His re­luc­tance to pre­serve the agree­ment deep­ened in re­cent weeks af­ter the protests, in which at least 21 peo­ple died and thou­sands were jailed. But the pres­i­dent’s se­nior aides again per­suaded him not to dis­solve it, while Euro­pean lead­ers have said Iran was still abid­ing by its terms — and that breach­ing it would play into the hands of hard-lin­ers in the coun­try.

Trump, of­fi­cials said, would not waive the san­tions again in May un­less the Euro­peans agreed to a “fol­low-on” deal that elim­i­nates the “sun­set clauses” in the cur­rent agree­ment, un­der which Iran is al­lowed to re­sume ac­tiv­i­ties like en­rich­ing ura­nium. It would also have to con­tain “trig­gers,” in­clud­ing in­spec­tions of Ira­nian fa­cil­i­ties, which would lead to a reim­po­si­tion of sanc­tions if Iran failed to com­ply.

Iran did not im­me­di­ately re­act to the an­nounce­ment, though of­fi­cials said they were pre­pared if Trump had de­cided to act. Iran’s first vice pres­i­dent, Eshagh Ja­hangiri, told the semiof­fi­cial ISNA news agency, “If the Amer­i­cans with­draw from the nu­clear deal, we will not hold a mourn­ing ser­vice; we are fully pre­pared for any likely event.”

White House of­fi­cials played up the sanc­tions against Lar­i­jani as a sym­bol of Trump’s dis­plea­sure with the Is­lamic Repub­lic’s gov­ern­ment — and sol­i­dar­ity with those who are ral­ly­ing against it. They pre­dicted that the move would re­ver­ber­ate po­lit­i­cally in­side

Iran, since Lar­i­jani’s brother, Ali Lar­i­jani, is the head of Iran’s Par­lia­ment.

Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate have drafted leg­is­la­tion that would amend the deal by elim­i­nat­ing its “sun­set pro­vi­sions.” But they have so far been un­able to bridge gaps with the Demo­cratic cau­cus.

There is also no ev­i­dence that the Euro­peans have the ap­petite to re­open the deal.

On Thurs­day, hours be­fore Trump made his de­ci­sion, Euro­pean for­eign min­is­ters met in Brus­sels with Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter, Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, os­ten­si­bly to press Tehran about its desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion, which are putting the nu­clear deal at risk.

But to some in Washington the meet­ing amounted to a show of unity be­tween Europe and Iran — and of de­fi­ance to­ward the United States.

There were images of a smil­ing Zarif, seated among smil­ing Euro­pean of­fi­cials, fol­lowed by a pa­rade of state­ments in fa­vor of the deal.

“I don’t think any­body has so far pro­duced a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive,” said the Bri­tish for­eign sec­re­tary, Boris John­son. “The Iran nu­clear deal makes the world safer. Euro­pean part­ners were unan­i­mous to­day in our de­ter­mi­na­tion to pre­serve the deal and tackle Iran’s dis­rup­tive be­hav­ior.”

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