Trump waives Iran sanctions, warns Tehran; Russia to oppose JCPOA reforms

UPDATE — 11:25 a.m. EST:  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday the Kremlin will lobby to preserve the Iran nuclear agreement as currently constituted.

“Since doubts regarding the viability of maintaining (JCPOA) were heard from Washington for the first time, we, together with Chinese and European participants of the agreement, have on multiple occasions brought the malignity of such a step and its unpredictable consequences to the attention of (the U.S).”

Lavrov went on to say changing the terms of JCPOA two years after it was instituted would harm potential nuclear draw-down negotiations with North Korea.

 

As expected on Friday, President Trump waived sanctions against Iran, a move he declared would be the final time before acting more forcefully to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions or violations to his predecessor’s landmark nuclear pact with Tehran.

“This is a last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said.

In suspending sanctions against Iran, Trump delivered an ultimatum to European signatories to the watershed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), warning he would abandon the pact unless dramatic changes are made to the agreement.

Accusing Iran of multiple violations to the accord, Trump has invited Congress to re-examine laws overseeing the deal and asked the legislative body to address its flaws.  Of greatest concern to Trump are the so-called “sunset clauses,” which lift restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

Senate leaders are reportedly still ironing-out reforms to JCPOA oversight legislation, passed in 2015, but foreign relations committee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) says Trump’s approach is harming the prospect of a deal.

“Instead of leading an international negotiation on the agreement himself, however, the president’s statement making threats and dictating final terms of potential negotiations with Congress and Europe makes it more challenging to achieve this objective,” he said.

Additionally, Trump has proposed the International Atomic Energy Agency be granted access to Iranian nuclear sites for inspection.

Iran has publicly stated it will not renegotiate, will not accept changes to the agreement, and will retaliate against any new sanctions imposed.  Tehran blasted Trump’s new sanctions imposed on Iranian officials.

As a candidate on the campaign trail in 2016, Trump denounced the nuclear agreement with Iran as one of the “worst deals ever.”  He also described the terms of the deal as one which would allow Iran to rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal.

Under the JCPOA, which went into effect in January 2016, limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment would be lifted in 2025.

 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

 

[Roll Call] [RT] [Wall Street Journal] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy NRO]