US renews hold on Iran nuclear sanctions, implements missile sanctions

The easing of sanctions is part of a crucial nuclear deal brokered in 2015 under then-President Barack Obama with five other world powers.

The announcement effectively continues US participation in the Iran nuclear deal - officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA - for the time being, even as the Trump administration is conducting a broad review of US Iran policy. However, the United States imposed new sanctions against Iran in February 2017 over its January medium-range ballistic missile test.

On his overseas trip, Mr Trump is likely to discuss issues involving Iran in Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The U.S. imposed new measures aimed at punishing Iran for developing ballistic missiles while continuing to suspend sanctions linked to its nuclear program, in a reflection of the Trump administration's hard balancing act toward the Islamic Republic.

And US officials vowed to maintain pressure on Iran over human rights abuses and renewed their demand that Tehran release US citizens held in its notorious jails.

The decision not to renew sanctions came just two days before Iran votes and may prove a boost for President Hassan Rouhani, who approved the nuclear deal and is seeking re-election.

Some of those sanctions waivers come up for review this week for the first time since Trump was elected - after warning during his presidential campaign that he might rip up the agreement.

"The United States continues to waive sanctions as required to continue implementing USA sanctions-lifting commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action", the State Department said in a statement, referring to the deal by its formal name.

Aiming to undercut the perception that Trump is softening on Iran, the US paired the announcement with new sanctions punishing Iran for its ballistic missiles program.

The move means that sanctions preventing any United States companies selling to or dealing with Iran will remain suspended for the time being.

"Iran continues to pursue missile-related technologies capable of delivering a nuclear weapon", he said, noting that the missile program is in breach of internationally backed UN Security Council resolutions.

While Trump criticized the nuclear agreement as a presidential candidate - at one point saying he would "dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran" - Wednesday's actions demonstrated that he has decided, at least for now, to keep it.

Last month in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iran had complied with its commitments through 18 April, but noted that the country continued to be a "leading state sponsor of terrorism".

  • Leroy Wright