After campaigning on how terrible the Iran nuclear deal was for the United States, calling it “disastrous” as one point, President Trump appears ready to keep the deal in place, at least for now, after the State Department announced that the U.S. had waived sanctions “as required to continue implementing U.S. sanctions-lifting commitments” in the deal.
The State Department said that the U.S. it is still conducting a wider-ranging review of its Iran policy and will “continue countering Iran’s destabilizing activity in the region, whether it be supporting the Assad regime, backing terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, or supporting violent militias that undermine governments in Iraq and Yemen.”
While still participating in the deal technically, Trump also imposed new, narrower penalties against Iranian and Chinese entities for Iran’s ballistic missile program. According to Reuters, the move lets Trump appear tough on Iran while not violating the 2015 agreement. The new sanctions, issued by the Treasury Department, cover two senior Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company, a Chinese man, and three Chinese companies.
The announcement comes two days before a presidential election in Iran though it’s not known how the continuation of the deal, or the new sanctions, would affect the vote. Hassan Rouhani, the incumbent who agreed to the 2015 nuclear deal, is a moderate who has campaigned on economic growth. His opponent, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, has questioned the nuclear deal’s benefits for Iran. According to Politico, Raisi is gaining ground — even though he is expected to keep the deal in place, too — and his election could be used by the Trump administration to say that Iran can’t be dealt with through normal diplomacy. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been relatively high recently and these new sanctions could affect that as well.