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Trump administration will let Iran nuclear deal live, United States officials say

19 May 2017

Stuart Jones, the top USA diplomat in charge of the Middle East, said the U.S.is still forming a "comprehensive Iran policy", alluding to President Donald Trump's assertion that he may tear up the deal after he finishes reviewing it.

The US Treasury Department Wednesday announced unrelated, new sanctions in connection to Iran's ballistic missile program.

Under the terms of the 2015 deal, the previous USA administration of President Barack Obama agreed to waive sanctions on Iran's nuclear program in return for strict controls to prevent it from developing atomic weapons.

The sanctions target Iranian officials involved with developing the country's ballistic missile program as well as Chinese suppliers of ballistic missile technology.

The Treasury on Wednesday also announced new USA sanctions against seven people linked to Iran's ballistic missile program, including two senior defense officials and a China-based network that supports Iran's military.

"At least as of now, it appears that drastically changing USA economic sanctions on Iran is taking a back-seat to domestic concerns", he said.

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An Iranian nuclear facility.

The former reality television personality has repeatedly called the agreement "the worst deal ever negotiated".

Iran criticised new USA sanctions on its missile programme on Thursday (May 18), saying they would undermine a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. He was sanctioned for his involvement in Iran's solid-fuel ballistic missile programme. But until then, he is required to decide on renewing sanctions relief at regular intervals.

Trump had until Thursday to extend a sanctions waiver on Iran.

Mark Dubowitz, an Iran expert and head of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which advocates for a tough USA position on Iran, said the latest steps were part of a "much more comprehensive strategy to use all instruments of American power to roll back Iranian regional aggression" and to "rectify what the administration sees as a deeply flawed nuclear deal".

"In renewing waivers of US sanctions, the Trump administration has once again grudgingly acknowledged that Iran continues to abide by its obligations under the agreement".

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"It's a clear message to foreign banks and companies looking to do business with Iran: You will be taking significant risks if you deal with a regime engaged in continued malign conduct and still covered by a web of expanding non-nuclear sanctions", he said.

The decision on the sanctions waiver represents a major early policy choice on the nuclear deal for the Trump administration, which has said that it is engaged in a wider policy review on how to deal with Iran. It also comes ahead of a five-country trip for Trump, which includes stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel.

USA lawmakers, as well as Trump administration insiders, have become increasingly concerned over Iran's repeated ballistic missile tests since the landmark nuclear agreement was inked.

Washington has maintained a raft of other sanctions related to human rights and the missile programme that continue to stifle Iran's efforts to rebuild its foreign trade.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in April that Iran was complying with its side of the bargain, but he also described the country as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.

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