The White House has delayed plans to slap new sanctions on Iran over its prohibited test-firing of ballistic missiles, a US news report said Thursday, for fear such punishment could jeopardize a hard-won nuclear deal with Tehran.
The Wall Street Journal, quoting unnamed US officials, said that financial sanctions being developed by the US Treasury Department remain on the table, despite the decision to delay them.
At one point the sanctions were scheduled to be announced Wednesday in Washington, the newspaper said, citing a notification the White House sent to Congress.
The officials gave no definitive timeline for when the sanctions would be imposed, it said.
The WSJ had reported Wednesday that the US was preparing fresh sanctions against companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates over alleged links to Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
Such a step by the Treasury Department could present a major barrier to the nuclear deal’s implementation, let alone its durability, and come with relations between Tehran and Washington deteriorating once more.
They would be the first American sanctions against Iran since Tehran signed the nuclear deal with world powers in July that will eventually see Washington drop separate sanctions targeting that program.
A senior administration official said in a statement to AFP that “we’ve been looking for some time at options for additional actions related to Iran’s ballistic missile program.
“We are considering various aspects related to additional designations, as well as evolving diplomatic work that is consistent with our national security interests.”
Earlier Thursday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani denounced the possible new US penalties, calling them “hostile and illegal interventions” that justified a response.
In the five months since the nuclear deal curtailing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions was struck, US officials say Iran has conducted two ballistic missile tests, one of which state media reported at the time, on October 11.
Rouhani has ordered his defense minister to speed up the production of missiles, following the US warning of new sanctions. Rouhani said Iran would not accept any curbs on its missile program.
Ballistic missile tests by Iran are prohibited under Security Council Resolution 1929, which was passed five years ago and remains valid until July’s nuclear deal goes into effect. At that point, in line with another Security Council resolution, passed immediately after the summer’s nuclear deal, Iran will be “called upon” to refrain for up to eight years from any work on ballistic missiles designed to carry nuclear weapons.
Both countries agree that the missile program is separate from the nuclear deal, which rewards Iran’s agreement to curb its nuclear program with the lifting of sanctions.