US president Donald Trump has decided to extend sanctions relief for Iran, leaving the 2015 nuclear accord intact and giving the White House and Congress more time to forge legislation imposing new restrictions on the Islamic Republic, according to a person familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reports.
Trump’s decision, which wasn’t set until late in the day Thursday, follows the advice of his entire national security team, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The president will announce the plan to waive the sanctions for another 120 days on Friday morning, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. A second person informed about the plans said arrangements were being made for Tillerson to call his counterparts in France and Germany to relay the decision.
A State Department spokesman declined to comment on Thursday night.
Trump had until Friday to decide whether to continue waiving 2012 sanctions that cut off Iran’s central bank from the global financial system, with a host of other, similar deadlines following over the next week. Letting the waivers lapse would have violated the 2015 agreement that Iran reached with world powers in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.
Trump has repeatedly railed against the nuclear accord, calling it the “worst deal ever.” In October, in a measure required every 90 days under U.S. law, Trump declined to certify that the agreement was in U.S. national security interests. Nevertheless, U.S. allies including the U.K. and France have repeatedly defended the agreement and said Iran continues to comply with the accord.
The decision followed a day of discussions, including an afternoon meeting of the president’s security team.
Officials had said that despite the recommendation of his entire national security staff, they weren’t sure which way Trump would go. A key, last-minute issue has been Trump’s anger with European leaders over what he saw as their muddled response to protests that broke out across Iran in recent weeks over the lack of economic opportunity there.
Instead of backing out of the nuclear deal, Trump has previously said he was giving lawmakers a chance to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the 2015 bill that was passed as a way to impose a degree of congressional oversight over the nuclear agreement. Those discussions have been led by Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said in October. “It is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as President, at any time.”
Nuclear-related sanctions that were waived under the 2015 deal stem from four separate pieces of legislation. Those laws all grant the president the power to waive the restrictions but set different timetables for how frequently he must do so. As it happens, those deadlines all fall due in the next several days.
“Senator Corker remains engaged in productive discussions with the White House
and a number of his colleagues in the Senate about the appropriate path forward, and our allies continue to be updated on relevant developments,” Corker spokeswoman Micah Johnson said.