US treasury secretary ‘expecting new sanctions on Iran’

As Trump mulls renewing measures against Tehran, Steve Mnuchin all but confirms ‘more sanctions coming’

Steven Mnuchin testifying during his Senate Finance committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images via JTA)
Steven Mnuchin testifying during his Senate Finance committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19, 2017. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images via JTA)

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Thursday he expected President Donald Trump to announce new sanctions against Iran, as the European Union urged Trump to endorse the nuclear agreement.

“I am expecting new sanctions on Iran,” Mnuchin told reporters, according to Reuters. “We continue to look at them. We’ve rolled them out and I think you can expect there will be more sanctions coming.”

Trump is expected to decide by Friday whether to extend sanctions relief under the nuclear deal or reimpose the restrictions his predecessor, Barack Obama, suspended two years ago.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany threw their weight behind the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear ambitions on Thursday, and insisted that the Islamic Republic is respecting its terms.

“There is no indication today that could call into doubt Iranian respect of the agreement,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Brussels, after a meeting between the Europeans and their Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif.

Le Drian called on all parties to uphold the agreement, noting that “our American allies should respect it as well. There is no particular reason for any rupture.”

Under the accord, Iran slowed its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of international economic sanctions.

US President Donald Trump is seen ahead of the College Football Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on January 8, 2018. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images/AFP)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also said that no one has put forward a plan that might be as effective in curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“It’s incumbent on those who oppose the (deal) really to come up with that better solution, because we haven’t seen it so far,” he said.

However, Johnson said it is “legitimate and right” to focus in parallel on what Iran should do to ease the crises in Yemen and Syria.

Officials from major world powers and Iran meet roughly every three to four months to assess implementation of the deal, which is monitored by the world’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The 2015 pact is underpinned on the US side by a presidential waiver of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran’s central bank.

US officials and others familiar with the administration’s deliberations told The Associated Press that Trump is likely to back the accord for now but that he may pair his decision with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people.

The restrictions could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were previously scrapped. This might test Tehran’s willingness to abide by its side of the bargain.

The agreement does not stop countries from imposing non-nuclear related sanctions on Iran.

European Union’s Foreign Policy head Federica Mogherini gives a press conference in Havana, Cuba on January 4, 2018. (AFP/Adalberto Roque)

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who hosted Thursday’s meeting, said that unity “is essential to preserve a deal that is working, that is making the world safer, and preventing a potential nuclear arms race in the region.”

Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, noted in a tweet the “strong consensus in Brussels” that Tehran is respecting its obligations and that “Iran’s continued compliance (is) conditioned on full compliance by the US.”

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel also underlined the importance of upholding the deal with nuclear tensions high in the Korean Peninsula.

“It’s absolutely necessary to have the signal that it’s possible by diplomatic approaches to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in a time where other parts of the world are discussing how to get nuclear weapons into force,” he said.

Trump openly despises the deal — a central foreign policy achievement of Obama — but has so far continued to waive the nuclear-related sanctions at regular intervals as required to stay in compliance.

In October, he refused to certify Iran was complying with the deal but stopped short of withdrawing from it, instead passing the issue of reimposing the sanctions to Congress.

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