The US has extended sanctions relief to Iran under the countries’ nuclear deal, but repeated accusations that Tehran is violating the spirit of the agreement.
President Donald Trump, who has threatened to tear up the 2015 accord, said Iran had “violated so many different elements” of the deal, under which the US agreed to waive numerous sanctions on the Islamic republic. The waiver has to be renewed every 120 days.
“We are not going to stand for what they are doing,” Mr Trump told reporters on Air Force One. “You’ll see what we’ll be doing in October.”
The president has until October 15 to certify to Congress whether Iran is in compliance with the accord — a separate decision that is made every three months.
The US maintains separate sanctions against Iran related its ballistic missile programme and allegations that Tehran sponsors terrorism in the region. On Thursday, the US Treasury imposed new restrictions on 11 people and entities for supporting Iranian actions, including cyber attacks against US financial institutions.
“Treasury will continue to take strong actions to counter Iran’s provocations,” Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, said in a statement.
Iran responded by accusing the Trump administration of wanting to rewrite the agreement. Javad Zarif, the country’s foreign minister, said on Twitter: “The #JCPOA is not (re) negotiable. A ‘better’ deal is pure fantasy. About time for US to stop spinning and begin complying, just like Iran.”
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, said the administration had not made a decision on whether Iran was complying with the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But speaking in London on Thursday, he said Iran’s development of its ballistic missile programme and its support for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad went against the spirit of the deal.
“In our view, Iran is clearly in default of these expectations of the JCPOA,” Mr Tillerson said at a press briefing alongside Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary. The country’s actions were “threatening the security of those in the region as well as the United States itself”, he said.
However, Mr Johnson said the deal appeared to be working. “We in the UK want to keep that alive, and that’s certainly a point that we’ve been making to Rex and others in the administration,” Mr Johnson said.
The accord was signed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany and the EU. It was hailed as a historic diplomatic breakthrough in the west’s relations with the Islamic republic and was the signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration.
Under the deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 per cent, and reduce by about two-thirds the number of its gas centrifuges for 13 years. In return, many western sanctions on Iran were lifted.
Senior administration officials, including Mr Tillerson, have repeatedly argued that the agreement is flawed because it does not account for Iran’s other actions. The US and Iran’s Arab rivals accuse Tehran of sponsoring terrorism in the region and meddling in Arab affairs.
In recent weeks, US diplomats and Pentagon officials have been sounding out their European counterparts to see if they would join in demanding an extension to limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment that are due to expire in 2025 and 2030, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
French and UK officials have said they would be willing to discuss those ideas at some point, but they echo Mr Johnson’s remarks that the deal is working and should remain in place.