NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump is expected to extend sanctions relief for Iran this week as part of the 2015 nuclear deal, amid widespread speculation about whether he would kick-start a process that would see the accord unravel.
The Associated Press cited unnamed administration officials saying lawmakers had made progress in amending US legislation that governs Washington’s participation in the landmark agreement, allowing Trump to extend relief from economic sanctions to Tehran.
Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions with new, targeted sanctions against Iranian businesses and people, including some firms and individuals whose sanctions were ditched under the 2015 agreement, the officials said.
The six sources, who were not allowed to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity, said Trump could still reject the recommendation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other top aides and that no final decision had been made.
Trump must decide by Friday whether to extend the nuclear-related sanctions relief for Iran’s central bank or reimpose the restrictions that former President Barack Obama suspended two years ago, which largely cut Iran out of the global financial system.
AP’s sources said Trump’s top national security aides appear to have successfully persuaded him to waive anew for 120 days the nuclear-linked sanctions while also imposing new curbs to punish Iran over weapons, alleged terrorism and human-rights abuses.
Such a balance may satisfy Trump’s demand to raise pressure on Iran, while not embarking on a frontal assault on the most central trade-offs of the 2015 accord, which the president has blasted as the “worst deal ever”.
Aaron David Miller, a former US State Department adviser, said Trump had talked tough against Iran but was actually “risk averse” when dealing with the regime and would likely take the safer course over waiving sanctions relief.
“All of this talk about putting Iran on notice in the region simply has not materialized; in Syria, Iraq … it’s actually been quite restrained,” Miller, from The Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, told Arab News.
“The most likely course of action will be tougher sanctions on human rights-related issues but to give the agreement more time.”
Suzanne Maloney, a former US State Department adviser on Iran, said Trump likely feels vindicated in his hostility to Iran by the eruption of nationwide anti-government protests across the Islamic republic at the end of December.
Trump’s chief objection to the Obama-era deal was not its technical shortcomings, but that it was a “bargain with a fundamentally evil entity, and that kind of a bargain can never succeed and only strengthens evil,” Maloney told Arab News.
“The real challenge for the US is not to constrain certain aspects of Iran’s behavior, but to see a wholesale transformation of the regime itself. Now Trump has seen young Iranians on the street calling for something that at least parallels that, he may push back on the course of prudence, which would be to give the deal another three months,” she added.