The Trump administration has announced that it will continue nuclear sanctions relief for Iran, keeping in place an Obama-era deal.
Under the 2015 deal, sanctions punishing Iran for its nuclear program were waived in exchange for Iran's commitment to roll back the program. But continuing the sanctions relief requires the renewal of a six-month waiver. The most recent waiver, issued by former Secretary of State John Kerry in December, was set to expire this week.
But the administration also imposed unrelated sanctions on two Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company and members of a China-based network for supporting Iran's ballistic missile program.
“Iran continues to pursue missile related technologies capable of delivering a nuclear weapon,” Washington's top diplomat for the Middle East, Stuart Jones, said, noting that the missile program is in breach of internationally backed U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“The State Department will continue to partner with our colleagues at the Department of the Treasury to ensure our national security in the face of Iranian threats.”
Jones said the U.S. is still forming a "comprehensive Iran policy,'' alluding to President Donald Trump's assertion that he may tear up the deal after he finishes reviewing it. In the meantime, Jones said, the U.S. will keep implementing the deal, including the sanctions relief.
Human rights still a concern
The State Department also released a new report criticizing Iran for human rights abuses.
Jones said the U.S. will continue to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses with new actions. “Whether it is imprisoning people arbitrarily, inflicting physical abuse and torture, or executing juvenile offenders, the Iranian regime has for decades committed egregious human rights violations against its own people and foreign nations, and this pattern of behavior must come to an end.”
He also called on Iran to immediately release Americans detained in the country.
The announcements and the report comes just days before Iran holds presidential elections that pit President Hassan Rouhani against several conservative opponents. It also comes ahead of Trump's five-day trip to the region.