US: Iran complying with nuclear deal, but breaching its spirit

The Trump administration again announced the extension of sanctions relief for Iran as set forth in the nuclear deal, while stressing that the Islamic Republic is “in default of the spirit.”

The Trump administration notified Congress on Monday that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal and that the sanctions relief it entails can be kept in place, even as it insisted Tehran would face consequences for breaching “the spirit” of the deal.

Senior Trump administration officials emphasized their deep concerns about Iran’s non-nuclear behavior, including its illicit missile program, and vowed that those transgressions will not go unpunished.

Officials said the administration was working with US allies to try to fix the deal’s flaws, including the expiration of some nuclear restrictions after a decade or more. The officials also said the US would slap Tehran with new sanctions penalizing it for developing ballistic missiles and other belligerent activity.

President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and “the entire administration judge that Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the agreement, one official said.

That assessment carries no legal force, while Trump’s certification that Iran is technically complying clears the way for the nuclear-related sanctions to remain lifted.

With no final decision on his broader Iran policy, the White House has let the status quo stand for another three months.

In April, when Trump made his first certification that Iran was abiding by the deal, he paired it with new sanctions for non-nuclear behavior to show there was no softening of his stance toward the Islamic Republic. Officials said they expected more sanctions would eventually be coming.

‘Contradictory Signals’

“We receive contradictory signals,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday at the Council on Foreign Relations before the decision was announced. “So we don’t know which one to interpret in what way.”

For Trump, a vocal critic of the deal, the obligation to report to Congress on Iran’s conformity has created a tri-monthly headache. Still undecided about whether to withdraw from the deal, Trump must either vouch for Tehran’s compliance or prove Iran is breaching it — even though the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that monitors the deal says it is not.

In its condemnation of Iran, senior officials emphasized several longstanding US concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile programs, human rights abuses and support for terrorism in the region. They also criticized Iran for detaining US citizens and limiting freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf.

Under the deal struck by Obama and other world leaders, Iran agreed to roll back its nuclear program — long suspected of being aimed at developing atomic weapons — in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

The deal does not address global concerns about Iran’s non-nuclear activities. Neither does it prevent the US and others from punishing Iran for those activities. Iran remains on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support of anti-Israel terror groups.

On the campaign trail, Trump lambasted the nuclear deal and said he would “rip it up.”

By: AP and World Israel News Staff