New Sanctions, Reluctant Compliance — Trump Pushes Iran Deal to the Brink

Hours after certifying Iran’s compliance with the multilateral nuclear deal, the Trump administration ratcheted up tensions with Tehran by imposing more restrictions on Iranian non-nuclear activities.

The State Department announced Tuesday morning that the US would penalize individuals and organizations associated with the country’s ballistic missile program and its elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Eighteen”entities and individuals” involved with the missile program would face sanctions, the Department said.

The Treasury Department also slapped penalties on “seven entities and five individuals” who do Revolutionary Guard contracting, and targeted two businessman who allegedly “orchestrated the theft of US and western software programs which, at times, were sold to the Government of Iran.”

Under the order, those penalized are forbidden from using the American banking system. Those sanctioned also face the freezing of any assets they hold under US jurisdiction.

The move came not long after the Trump administration reluctantly confirmed that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal — signed with the US, the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany.

One unnamed official said that President Trump and “the entire administration judge that Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the deal according to ABC News.

The State Department last verified Iran’s compliance in April, though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserted then that the US would question if the deal is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

While campaigning in 2016, President Trump consistently bashed President Obama for agreeing to the accord.

Observers and supporters of US-Iran diplomacy said that the Trump administration looked poised to undermine the nuclear deal, with its obstinate certification and the new wave of sanctions.

Ariane Tabatabai, an arms control scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Tuesday morning that the White House was “trying to inflict death by paper cuts, slowly chipping [the deal] away.”

On Monday night, the National Iranian American Council also blasted the Trump administration for engaging in brinkmanship.

“President Trump has already explicitly violated Article 29 of the [deal] by urging other nations not engage in what is now legal trade with Iran,” NIAC President Trita Parsi said.

Parsi added that the White House “has deliberately created an environment of uncertainty by consistently questioning the validity of the [deal], hinting that the US might quit the agreement, and by suggesting that it might pursue regime change in Iran.”

Late last month, Secretary Tillerson vowed to “to work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.”

On Monday, ahead of the compliance announcement, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had warned that Tehran could back out of the nuclear deal in response to “shortcomings by the United States.”

“If it comes to a major violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance, then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal,” Zarif said.