US extends Iran sanctions relief while bemoaning behavior

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Thursday extended sanctions relief to Iran, avoiding imminent action that could implode the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, even as President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Tehran of not respecting the entire agreement.

The extensions of the waivers on nuclear sanctions, first issued by the Obama administration, were accompanied by new penalties imposed against 11 Iranian people and companies accused of supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program or involvement in cyber-attacks against the U.S. financial system.

The combination of steps — known internally as “waive and slap” — came as the administration nears completion of a monthslong review of its Iran policy that is expected next month, perhaps as early as October 15 when Trump must inform Congress if Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear agreement and whether the deal remains in U.S. national security interests.

In comments to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump repeated his campaign pronouncement that the deal is bad and again said he believes Iran is violating its terms and spirit.

“The Iran deal is one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Not a fair deal to this country. It’s a deal that should have never ever been made. You’ll see what we’re doing … it’s going to be in October.”

“We are not going to stand for what they are doing to this country,” Trump said. “They have violated so many elements but they have also violated the spirit of that deal.”

Speaking in London at a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson., Tillerson told reporters the administration’s approach to Iran could not be determined on the basis of the nuclear accord alone.

“We must take into account the totality of Iranian threats, not just its nuclear capabilities,” he said, citing obligations to uphold regional and international security.

“Iran is clearly in defiance of these obligations,” Tillerson said, pointing to its support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, cyber activity and testing of ballistic missiles.

The White House did not issue a statement announcing the extension of the sanctions waivers and left it to the State Department to make the move public.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert recited a litany of what she called provocative and belligerent Iranian action that she said demonstrated Iran’s malign behavior before announcing the “waive” part of the strategy.

“The…

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