US extends Iran nuke sanctions relief, adds other sanctions

The administration of US President Donald Trump chose to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions on Wednesday despite its criticism of the agreement.That was a relief to Rouhani, who made the 2015 nuclear deal the centrepiece of his efforts to end Iran's isolation and rebuild its economy with foreign investment.

"Iran condemns the United States administration's ill will in its effort to reduce the positive results of the country's implementation of JCPOA (nuclear deal) commitments by adding individuals to the list of unilateral and illegal extraterritorial sanctions", foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said on his Telegram channel.

The US State Department also released a report on cited Iranian human rights violations required by Congress every six months. Reissuing the waivers gives the appearance of compliance, while the uncertainty created by the administration's attacks on the deal can be enough to cause its collapse and put the USA and Iran back on a path towards war.

Stuart Jones, the top USA diplomat in charge of the Middle East, said the USA is still forming a "comprehensive Iran policy" that addresses Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and Islamic terror groups in Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

Under the sanctions also hit a Chinese citizen and the Chinese company, said the U.S. Treasury Department.

"This administration is committed to countering Iran's destabilizing behavior, such as Iran's development of ballistic missiles and support to the Assad regime", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "And above all, the United States will never allow the regime in Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon", he added.

"The Treasury Department is imposing new sanctions on Iranian defense officials, an Iranian entity, and a China-based network that supplied missile-applicable items to a key Iranian defense entity".

The announcement also came two days before the Iranian Presidential elections, in which incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, who negotiated the nuclear deal for Iran with the P5+1 countries, is seeking re-election.

The sanctions block any assets the individuals or companies may have in the United States and bars Americans and non-Americans from doing business with them.

Another long-time Middle East expert closely involved in the fight against the deal said the officials are mobilizing to ensure that lawmakers do not impose additional pressure on Iran.

Regarding the review of Iran policy and the JCPOA that the Trump administration is conducting, former nuclear negotiator Nephew said he understands that it is very much still underway.

The deal is also controversial inside the Trump administration, with some officials pushing for the USA to walk away from the agreement and others urging more restraint. The Obama administration did so in mid January, forcing the Trump administration to decide by Wednesday whether to renew them or to put the wider Iran deal at risk.

The designation of the seven Iranian and Chinese people and companies blocks any assets they might have in the USA and bars Americans and non-Americans from doing business with them, at the risk of being blacklisted by the US.

Unnamed officials earlier told Reuters earlier that Washington had already noted Iranian officials that the waivers would remain in place.

Acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown said the anti-racketeering indictment targets 44 members and associates of the gang, including the one-time leader of a Los Angeles faction of MS-13.

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