Trump Administration Says U.S. Will Stay In Iran Nuclear Deal For Now

Jan 12, 2018
Originally published on January 12, 2018 4:17 pm
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President Trump is not pulling the U.S. out of a deal that it and other world powers made with Iran to limit Iran's nuclear program, at least not yet. But he is giving the other countries in the deal a warning. Make the deal tougher, or the U.S. will stop keeping its end of the bargain with sanctions relief. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is imposing new targeted sanctions on Iran that aren't part of this deal. NPR's Michele Kelemen is with us now to talk about this. Hey, Michele.


MCEVERS: So just explain. What exactly did President Trump do today?

KELEMEN: Well, he's waiving the sanctions that he's required to under this nuclear deal. It's something he has to do every few months, and it's clear he doesn't like it. But the deal was sanctions relief in return for strict limits to Iran's nuclear program.

Now, his aides say this is the last time he's going to do this unless the deal is fixed. He wants to make the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program permanent so Iran never gets any closer to building a nuclear bomb. And they say he's not going to talk to Iran about this, only to the Europeans who were involved in making this deal.

MCEVERS: OK. So how are the Europeans reacting to this?

KELEMEN: Well, so far they've been fairly quiet today. But the European Union's foreign policy chief who oversees this deal has made it clear all along that it is not open for renegotiation. British, French and German diplomats who were part of the negotiations have been back and forth to Washington. They've been lobbying hard to keep the Trump administration in, arguing that the deal is working. It's keeping Iran's nuclear program in check. And by the way, it has been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

Now, some of the Obama administration officials who were involved in these talks had a conference call today, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. And he was sounding quite skeptical about this. Let's listen to a bit of what he had to say.


ERNEST MONIZ: It looks to me as though the administration is in some sense thinking about having the Europeans in effect endorse an imposition of sanctions down the road even with Iran in compliance with the deal. And I would be extraordinarily surprised if the Europeans would have any part of that.

KELEMEN: Another Obama administration official, Rob Malley, added that Trump is essentially telling the Europeans - and these are his words - either kill the deal with me, or I'll kill it alone.

MCEVERS: What are the new sanctions that Trump's Treasury Department is imposing, and do they violate the existing deal?

KELEMEN: No. You know, there are all sorts of other sanctions on Iran. What they did today was they added 14 individuals and entities to a couple different blacklists. Probably the most interesting is Sadeq Larijani. He's the head of Iran's judiciary and the brother of Ali Larijani, who's the speaker of Parliament. And those are focused really on human rights abuses. And even proponents of the deal say it's good to keep the pressure on Iran's other nefarious activities - a ballistic missile program, its human rights record, et cetera.

MCEVERS: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen, thank you very much.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.