U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday extended wide sanctions relief for Iran called for under a 2015 international nuclear deal even as he imposed narrow penalties on Iranian and Chinese figures for supporting Iran's ballistic missile program, Reuters reported.
The dual actions, announced by the Departments of State and Treasury, appeared intended to signal a tough stance on Iran even as Trump continued predecessor President Barack Obama's pact under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
While Trump criticized the nuclear agreement as a presidential candidate - at one point saying he would "dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran" - Wednesday's actions demonstrated that he has decided, at least for now, to keep it.
"The United States continues to waive sanctions as required to continue implementing U.S. sanctions-lifting commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," the State Department said in a statement, referring to the deal by its formal name.
The United States brands Iran a "state sponsor of terrorism." It says Tehran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, Houthi rebels in Yemen's civil war and the Hezbollah Shi'ite political party and militia in Lebanon, have helped destabilize the Middle East.
Separately, the Treasury Department said it had sanctioned two senior Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company, a Chinese man and three Chinese companies for supporting Iran's ballistic missile program.
The designation of the seven Iranian and Chinese people and companies blocks any assets they might have in the United States and bars Americans and non-Americans from doing business with them, at the risk of being blacklisted by the United States.