U.S. to review lifting of sanctions on Iran

Although it appears Iran is complying with the 2015 deal to rein in its nuclear program, the Trump administration announced Tuesday that due to concerns that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, the United States will conduct an inter-agency review to determine whether lifting sanctions against Iran was in the country’s best national security interests.

The historic deal, called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was made between Iran and six major powers and was struck to restrict Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions against Iran.

As part of the deal, Iran must submit to international inspections to verify its compliance, and the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of this compliance.

On Tuesday, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson provided the first such notification under President Trump in a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. He said, while Iran remains compliant with the 2015 deal, there are concerns about its alleged role of being the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism.

This includes purportedly backing conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq, as well as sponsoring terror groups like Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based ally.

Tillerson said in a statement, “The U.S. Department of State certified to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan today that Iran is compliant through April 18 with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

However, Tillerson added, “President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

In his letter to Ryan, Tillerson did not reveal how long the review would take but did say that the Trump administration looks forward to working with Congress on the review.

The JCPOA calls for Iran to reduce the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds, to cap its level of uranium enrichment to far below the amount needed for bomb-grade material, to decrease its enriched uranium stockpile from approximately 10,000 kg to 300 kg for 15 years, and to submit to international inspections to ensure its compliance.

While Iran denies even considering developing atomic weapons, nuclear experts warn that any U.S. violation of the JCPOA would give Iran permission to pull back from its compliance.

However, during his presidential run, Trump called the JCPOA “the worst deal ever negotiated.” In addition, last month, Defense Sec. James Mattis said Iran continues to behave as an exporter of terrorism and is still sponsoring militant activity.

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