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US extends nuke sanctions relief but hits targets accused of cyber attacks

Economic sanctions slapped on 11 individuals and companies accused of supporting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, involvement in cyber attacks against US banks

An illustrative photo of an electricity company control room. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of an electricity company control room. (Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

The United States on Thursday agreed to continue for now to exempt Iran from nuclear-related sanctions but slapped new measures against targets accused of cyber attacks or fomenting militancy.

President Donald Trump’s decision will be seen as a victory for opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, who have called for tough action against Tehran’s alleged destabilizing role in its region.

On October 15, Trump is due to decide whether Iran has breached the 2015 nuclear agreement, and critics fear he may abandon an accord they think prevents Tehran from building a nuclear bomb.

But supporters hailed Thursday’s move, in which the US Treasury announced new sanctions on non-nuclear issues even as Trump’s administration grudgingly maintained sanctions relief.

A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the waiver “a holding action,” warning that no decision had been reached on the long-term future of the deal.

“This is the action that the US is taking in the interim,” he said, “while the president and his cabinet come to final decision in consultation among themselves and in consultation with allies.”

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards at an annual military parade in front of the mausoleum of the late Ayatollah Khomeini just outside Tehran, Iran, on September 22, 2014 (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The Treasury imposed economic sanctions on 11 individuals and companies accused of supporting Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or engaging in cyber attacks against US banks.

Trump’s administration has criticized the 2015 deal signed by his predecessor Barack Obama’s administration, but has so far not reimposed the former sanctions imposed on Iran’s nuclear program.

The new sanctions announced Thursday targeted an engineering company, two air transport firms and an IT company.

The IT firm is accused of carrying out denial-of-service attacks on at least nine American financial institutions, including major banks and stock exchanges between 2011 and 2012.

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