President Trump kept the Iranian nuclear deal in place Friday for another 120 days but warned it’s the last time, as the U.S. seeks a tougher agreement against Tehran with European allies, and the administration slapped Iran with fresh sanctions unrelated to the agreement.
“This is a last chance,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.
Mr. Trump faced a Friday deadline to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran that the U.S. had suspended as part of a 2015 nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama administration and five other nations.
The president is designating 14 Iranian individuals and entities with new sanctions unrelated to the nuclear deal, including the head of Iran’s judiciary, a senior administration official said.
“I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” Mr. Trump said. “In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately. No one should doubt my word.”
The official said the White House also wants Congress and European allies to take sterner action before the next deadline for extending the deal.
U.S. officials said the new sanctions were for human-rights abuses by the Iranian regime during its response to civil protests, and for weapons proliferation. One official said the actions “will send a very strong message that the United States is not going to tolerate their continued abuses.”
Said Mr. Trump, “Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. Instead, I have outlined two possible paths forward: either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.
He said he is open to working with Congress on bipartisan legislation regarding Iran, but any bill must include four components: demanding that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors; ensuring that Iran “never even comes close” to possessing a nuclear weapon; eliminating any expiration date; and denying Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon.
“If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume,” he said.
Nile Gardiner, director of the Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation, said Mr. Trump is “taking the right approach.”
“The Iran deal in its current form is unacceptable and is simply not working,” Mr. Gardiner said.
But he added that the administration “faces a huge challenge in getting European allies to strengthen the [nuclear agreement].”
“While Britain may move to support the U.S. on this, Germany and France are likely to be strongly opposed,” he said.
Mr. Trump has been vowing to end the deal since the start of his presidency, saying tougher inspections should be imposed on Iran’s nuclear program and any terms should be indefinite instead of expiring in a decade or so.