Trump Extends Iran Sanctions Relief, Says It's the 'Last Time' Unless Nuclear Deal Loopholes Are Closed

Trump gives the world powers four months to remove 'loopholes' in the Iran nuclear deal

Iranian flags held by demonstrators at a rally across the White House in Washington on January 6, 2018.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to once again waive sanctions on Iran, allowing the nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic to survive, for now. Trump, however, has stated that this will be the "last time" he waives those sanctions, unless the United States and its European allies can find a way to remove "loopholes" in the nuclear deal within the next four months.

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Trump said in a statement on Friday: "Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. Instead, I have outlined two possible paths forward: either fix the deals disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw." 

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded to Trump's statement on Twitter, saying that it "amounts to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement."

In a statement carried by the state-run IRNA news agency, Iran's Foreign Ministry said the country "will not accept any change in the deal, neither now nor in future," adding that it will "not take any action beyond its commitments."

A senior American official said that one of the main issues Trump wants to see addressed is the "sunset clause" of the nuclear deal, which ends some of the restrictions put on Iran's nuclear program within ten or fifteen years of its signing date. Trump wants to agree with Europe on an American-European agreement to re-impose sanctions on Iran even if it takes steps to renew some aspects of its nuclear program twenty or thirty years from today.

"That's the heart of the decision," the senior official explained. Trump will also demand Iran allow easier and more immediate access to international inspections of its nuclear sites. The administration emphasized that Trump also wants to see U.S. legislation stating that the ballistic missile program is an inseparable part of its nuclear program, and should be treated as the same in terms of American sanctions.

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In his statement, Trump said that he is "open to working" with Congress on a bill that would leave the nuclear deal in place, "but any bill I sign must include four critical components: 

First, it must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors. 

Second, it must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon. 

Third, unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date. My policy is to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon—not just for ten years, but forever.

If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume.

Fourth, the legislation must explicitly state in United States law—for the first time—that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Irans development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions." 

In addition to making this decision, the Trump administration has placed new sanctions on 14 Iranian regime persons and entities, including senior judicial figures in the country. These sanctions are not related to the nuclear deal, but some of them are a result of the new wave of protests in Iran. "We will not stand by," the senior official stated, "we are targeting the Iranian regime for violating human rights and using censorship" against its' citizens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.