WASHINGTON -- The United States says it is extending sanctions relief for Iran that was granted under the 2015 nuclear deal, while imposing new penalties on several individuals and entities over the country’s ballistic-missile program.
The State Department announced on September 14 that it will continue to waive sanctions on Iran as part of the nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers, but that no decision has yet been made on whether to preserve the deal itself.
"Waiving some of those sanctions should not be seen as an indication of President [Donald] Trump or his administration's position on the [nuclear deal], nor is the waiver giving the Iranian regime a pass on its broad range of malign behavior," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
The nuclear accord granted Iran an easing of international economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.
Under U.S. law, the sanctions can be waived for a maximum of 120 days, meaning the U.S. government must review the situation every four months.
Trump warned during his presidential campaign that he might cancel the deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama, but has so far agreed to renew the extension, which he last did on May 17.
Speaking to reporters on September 14, Trump described the agreement as “one of the worst deals I have ever seen” and reiterated that Iran is violating "the spirit" of the nuclear deal.
However, he stopped short of saying whether he will refuse to recertify the agreement.
U.S. and UN watchdogs monitoring compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement have found Iran has adhered to the deal.
However, the Trump administration has frequently charged that Tehran breaks the "spirit" of the deal, including by continuing to test-launch ballistic missiles and rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
While the waiver on the nuclear-related sanctions was renewed, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against 11 individuals and entities for allegedly supporting Iran’s banned ballistic-missile program or for being responsible for cyberattacks against U.S. financial institutions.
The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said two Ukraine-based airlines are among those being slapped with sanctions, accused of aiding sanctioned Iranian and Iraqi carriers.
OFAC said those sanctioned also include an entity engaged in activities supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) ballistic-missile program, along with two Iran-based networks “responsible for malicious cyberenabled attacks against the U.S. financial system.”
“The Treasury will continue to take strong actions to counter Iran’s provocations, including support for the IRGC…and terrorist extremists, the ongoing campaign of violence in Syria, and cyberattacks meant to destabilize the U.S. financial system,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.
Under the latest actions, the property and interests under U.S. jurisdiction of those sanctioned will be frozen and they could have their access to the U.S. financial system blocked, the Treasury Department said.
OFAC said it had designated Ukraine-based Khors Aircompany and Dart Airlines for aiding sanctioned Iranian and Iraqi airlines by providing aircraft and services.
It said Khors and Dart helped Iran’s Caspian Air and Iraq’s Al-Naser Airlines acquire U.S.-built aircraft, as well as crew and services.
Washington has previously imposed several rounds of sanctions over the missile and rocket launches.
Iran maintains those launches are for self-defense and do not violate the deal.
During a stop in London on September 14, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the U.S. government was continuing to develop its policy on Iran and will consider the wider threat it poses beyond just its nuclear program.
"The Trump administration is continuing to review and develop its policy on Iran...No decision has been made," Tillerson said.
"President Trump has made it clear...we must take into account the totality of Iranian threats, not just Iran's nuclear capabilities. That is just one piece of our posture toward Iran."
With reporting by Reuters