WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump signed a waiver on Friday keeping the Iran nuclear deal alive, at least for now, saying this would be the last time unless Congress and European countries heed his call to strengthen the deal.
Faced with a deadline over whether to reimpose sanctions against Tehran that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord, Trump ultimately decided to keep those sanctions suspended for another 120 days.
“Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in a statement. “This is a last chance.”
“In the absence of such an agreement,” he went on, “the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.”
If Trump had not signed the waivers, nuclear sanctions against Iran would automatically be reinstated, putting the US in contravention of the deal’s terms and likely spelling the end of the pact.
Trump laid out four conditions that must be met for him to not abrogate the deal, which included increased inspections, ensuring “Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon” and that there be no expiration dates to the nuke deal. The current one expires after a decade.
His last condition required Capitol Hill lawmakers to pass a bill unilaterally incorporating Iran’s missile program into the nuclear deal.
“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 Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions,” the president’s written statement said.
“I hereby call on key European countries to join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal, countering Iranian aggression, and supporting the Iranian people. If other nations fail to act during this time, I will terminate our deal with Iran,” he said. “No one should doubt my word.”
Officials said Tehran would not be involved in these new discussions, as it was before the signing of the 2015 accord, but would be subject to US and European sanctions if it breaks the terms of the new arrangement.
Under the current accord, the US president has to sign the waivers every 120 days, while the American intelligence services monitor the Islamic Republic’s compliance with the deal, which rolled back crippling sanctions against Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
In conjunction with his announcement to extend the agreement, Trump used the occasion to slap 14 Iranian individuals and entities, including the Head of Iran’s Judiciary, Sadegh Amoli Larijani, with fresh sanctions.
The last time he faced a major deadline regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is formally known, he decertified the deal under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), a congressionally mandated measure that requires the president to determine if Iran is in compliance.
The administration charged that Iran was not living up to the “spirit” of the agreement and asked Congress to unilaterally impose “trigger points” on the deal that will reimpose nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran should it overstep certain bounds.
Those trigger points, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters at the time, would be aimed primarily at addressing what the administration sees as flaws in the deal, such as the sunset clause, which is set to lift limitations on Iran’s nuclear program when the accord expires in over a decade, and Iran’s ability to continue developing its ballistic missile program.
The move forced Congress to set another review period to determine whether to hit Iran with sanctions that were in place before the accord was implemented, or potentially take other actions.