US imposes new sanctions
TEHRAN, Iran, Jan 13, (Agencies): Iran said Saturday it won’t accept any changes to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after President Donald Trump vowed to pull out of the accord in a few months if European allies did not fix its “terrible fl aws.” In a statement carried by the state-run IRNA news agency, the Foreign Ministry said Iran “will not accept any change in the deal, neither now nor in future,” adding that it will “not take any action beyond its commitments.”
It also said Iran would not allow the deal to be linked to other issues, after Trump suggested that the sanctions relief under the deal be tied to Iran limiting its long-range ballistic missile program. Iran said it would retaliate against new sanctions imposed by the United States after Trump set an ultimatum to fix “disastrous flaws” in a deal curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Trump said on Friday he would waive nuclear sanctions on Iran for the last time to give the United States and European allies a final chance to amend the pact. Washington also imposed sanctions on the head of Iran’s judiciary and others. Russia — one of the parties to the Iran pact alongside the United States, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union — called Trump’s comments “extremely negative.”
The ultimatum puts pressure on Europeans, key backers of the 2015 nuclear deal, to satisfy Trump, who wants the pact strengthened with a separate agreement within 120 days. While approving the waiver on US sanctions related to the nuclear deal, Washington announced other sanctions against 14 Iranian entities and people, including judiciary head Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, a close ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Describing sanctions against Larijani as “hostile action”, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the move “crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community and is a violation of international law and will surely be answered by a serious reaction of the Islamic Republic,” state media reported. It did not specify what any retaliation might involve.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had earlier said on Twitter that the deal was “not renegotiable” and that Trump’s move “amounts to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement.” Iran says its nuclear programme has only peaceful aims and says it will stick to the accord as long as others respect it. But it has said it would “shred” the deal if Washington quit. Trump, who has sharply criticised the deal reached in Barack Obama’s presidency, had chafed at having to once again waive sanctions on a country he sees as a threat in the Middle East. “Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in a statement, saying the options were to fix “the deal’s disastrous fl aws, or the United States will withdraw.” “This is a last chance,” Trump said, pushing for a separate agreement and saying the United States would not waive sanctions again to keep Iran in the pact without such an agreement. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called Trump’s remarks “extremely negative”, RIA state news agency reported. “Our worst fears are being confirmed,” he said.
The EU said in a statement it had taken note of Trump’s decision and would assess its implications. “It’s going to be complicated to save the deal after this,” said one European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. Britain, France and Germany had called on Trump on Thursday to uphold the pact. Senior US administration officials told reporters Trump would work with Europeans on a follow- on deal to enshrine triggers that the Iranian government could not exceed related to ballistic missiles. Republican Senator Bob Corker said “significant progress” had been made on bipartisan congressional legislation to address “fl aws in the agreement without violating US commitments.” Trump laid out conditions to keep Washington in the deal. Iran must allow “immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors,” he said, and “sunset” provisions imposing limits on Iran’s nuclear programme must not expire.
Trump said US law must tie long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs together, making any missile testing by Iran subject to “severe sanctions.” The president wants US Congress to modify a law that reviews US participation in the nuclear deal to include “trigger points” that, if violated, would lead to the United States reimposing its sanctions, the official said.
This would not entail negotiations with Iran but would be the result of talks with European allies, the official said. A decision to withhold a waiver would have effectively ended the deal between Iran and the other international signatories.
The other parties to the agreement would have been unlikely to join the United States in reimposing sanctions. Two EU diplomats said EU foreign ministers would discuss next steps at their next regular meeting on Jan 22 in Brussels. Even with Trump continuing to waive nuclear sanctions, Iran’s economy remains hobbled by US restrictions but some diplomats in Tehran remain quietly confident for the future.
The real problem in Iran right now, everyone in the international business community agrees, is uncertainty. That was not helped by Trump’s announcement on Friday that he would waive nuclear-related sanctions, but only once more and that Europe must work with Washington to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw”.
“No one has any idea what’s going on. Trump has introduced so many layers of uncertainty,” a Western trade official in Tehran told AFP on condition of anonymity. “That’s not necessarily negative. Things could actually improve if Trump pulls out of the deal. The Europeans could stay and the EU could provide protections for its industries against US sanctions,” he said. “Or things could get even worse. We just don’t know.” On the surface, Trump’s vitriolic stance appears disastrous for the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, which lifted many sanctions in exchange for curbs to the country’s nuclear programme.