AIPAC cautiously praises Trump for stance on Iran; J Street denounces him

Powerful pro-Israel lobby mum on president’s threat to pull out of nuclear deal; liberal group says he’s ‘recklessly’ putting America ‘on a path to nuclear crisis’

US President Donald Trump speaks during an event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, January 12, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump speaks during an event to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, January 12, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee said Saturday it “appreciates” Washington imposing additional sanctions on Iranian individuals, as well as President Donald Trump’s efforts to address “shortcomings” of the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Trump on Friday grudgingly agreed not to reimpose nuclear sanctions on Iran, but warned that it would be the last time he issues such a waiver.

Instead, he said he wants Washington’s European allies to use the 120-day period before sanctions relief again comes up for renewal to agree on tougher measures.

At the same time as the renewed waiver was announced, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on 14 Iranian figures and companies, including the head of the country’s judiciary, Sadegh Amoli Larijani.

“AIPAC appreciates the Trump administration’s decision today to sanction additional individuals and entities that support Iran’s illicit activities and violations of human rights,” the pro-Israel lobby said in a statement.

AIPAC also expressed appreciation for the Trump administration’s efforts to address the deal’s “shortcomings,” and called on America’s European allies to help fix the the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Though AIPAC staunchly opposed the deal during the negotiations, it has not publicly addressed Trump’s threat to pull out of the accord.

Meanwhile J Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby that backed the deal, strongly denounced Trump for “recklessly” putting the US “on a path to a new nuclear crisis and isolation on the world stage.”

A statement from J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami called on members of congress and “any responsible officials remaining inside the administration” to take steps “to reverse this decision and prevent this disastrous policy from being carried out.”

The revised nuclear deal envisioned by Trump would involve the US and European allies agreeing to impose tougher controls on Iran if sanctions relief is to continue.

In particular, Trump’s desired accord would not begin to expire after 10 years as parts of the existing deal do. It would also impose permanent restrictions not just on Iran’s nuclear plants, but also its missile program.

“These provisions must have no expiration date. My policy is to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon — not just for 10 years, but forever,” Trump said. “If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume.”

Trump is also urging Congress to reform US law so the president is no longer required to declare every 90 days whether he thinks Iran is in compliance, or to renew sanctions waivers every 120 or 180 days.

Iran has rejected Trump’s announcement, with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif calling Trump’s moves “desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement.”

The 2015 deal, he said, “is not renegotiable. Rather than repeating tired rhetoric, the US must bring itself into full compliance — just like Iran.”

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