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The Trump administration will again refrain from nuclear sanctions against Iran




President Trump speaks with Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on July 16. (Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post)

Afterwards The Trump administration will announce later this week that it will again renounce five different nuclear sanctions against Iran to preserve a substantial part of the Iranian nuclear deal from the Obama era. The decision will anger Iran's hawks in Washington and be greeted by Russia, China, European allies and the Iranian leadership. The problem is a symbol of tensions within the government regarding the implementation of President Trump's "maximum pressure" policy.

At a meeting of the Oval Office last week, Trump stepped in for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who argued that the government should renew the sanctions except for five separate parts of the Iranian nuclear program. According to six government officials, Mnuchin opposed the objections of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Pompeo, the lead officer on this matter, will still support Trump's decision if it is announced later this week.

Mnuchin, said these six officials, Trump argued, if the sanctions were not repealed, as the law requires On August 1, the United States would need Russian, Chinese and European companies involved in projects in Iran sanctioned under the 2015 Nuclear Agreement. The Ministry of Finance asked for more time to investigate the impact of these sanctions.

"We still have the goal to end these exceptions," a senior administration official told me. "These derogations may be revoked at any time if developments in Iran justify it. Based on the legitimate concerns of the Ministry of Finance, we have decided to extend it for the time being.

These projects include the conversion of a heavy water reactor in Arak and the conversion of an enrichment center in Fordow, as well as the fuel exchanges at the nuclear power plant Bushehr Reaktoranlage and Tehran Research Reactor.

The State Department, the leading government agency on the matter, last renewed the exemptions in May, although it refused to renew two more exemptions related to nuclear sanctions. The forthcoming extensions of the derogation will give these projects another 90 days immunity. In April, the Trump government lifted all waivers for all imports of Iranian oil, which contributed to crippling the Iranian economy. The National Security Council, State Department and Treasury Department refused to comment on the records of internal considerations.

Earlier this month, Trump appeared to point out that nuclear declarations would not be renewed when he responded to news on Twitter Iran has exceeded the uranium enrichment rates agreed in the nuclear agreement. "The sanctions will be tightened soon!" he tweeted .

Within the administration, some non-proliferation officials argued that the projects provided crucial insight into the Iranian nuclear program to the United States and the international community and reduced Iran's ability to proliferate.

"There has always been tensions within the government between those who want to preserve elements of [Iran nuclear deal] as a framework for negotiation and those who view it as a deadly flawed deal that provides Iran with patient pathways to nuclear bombs," said Mark Dubowitz, Managing Director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "Our political goal is to maximize maximum pressure. These nuclear declarations never made sense, and they definitely do not make sense in a campaign of maximum pressure. "

Fifty US lawmakers did so in a letter to Trump dated July 17, led by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Ja.). Legislators called on him to lift the lifting of Iran's nuclear sanctions once and for all, saying the suspension legitimized Iran's illicit nuclear infrastructure and support projects built under Obama's nuclear deal.

"Mr. Madam President, your campaign for maximum pressure on Iran works, "wrote the legislator. "To continue your successful strategy, we must renew all US and international sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program."

Of course, everything depends on what you mean by "working". For Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), the goal of ending exemptions is to increase the "maximum pressure" until Iran "finally abandons its nuclear ambitions and stops promoting terrorism." "Normal country".

For Trump, the goal of the "maximum pressure" campaign is to force the Iranian regime to return to the table and agree on a better deal than President Barack Obama could negotiate. None of these things will likely happen soon. According to each of these theories, the "maximum pressure" could be undermined by this decision.

Daryl Kimball, president of the Arms Control Association, said the projects themselves will not work anyway, since Trump's "maximum pressure" policy is not working should be salvaged for their intrinsic value.

"It is in the US national and international security interest to extend these exemptions to enable these projects to improve the spread of Iran's nuclear programs," he said.

Some officials insist that the nuclear declarations do not significantly water down the "maximum pressure" campaign. "We allow restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program as long as we paralyze the Iranian economy," said one official.

Most officials, lawmakers and diplomats, however, are concerned with whether the Trump administration and Trump are themselves truly committed to the unilateralist, aggressive Iran policies they always announce. This step could be interpreted as a signal that this is not the case.

"It is considered a tacit affirmation that Iran has a right to a nuclear enrichment program that we do not accept," one official said. "That's not politics."

Read more:

Jason Rezaian: Name your Iran policy by its true name.

David Ignatius: The US is trying to beat Iran.

David Ignatius: Why? The United States is in the Persian Gulf drug with Iran.

Jason Rezaian: Trump wants to make Iran great again. So he could do that.

Reuel Marc Gerecht: What Trump Can Expect From Iran Supreme Leader


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