U.S. extends sanctions relief under Iran nuclear deal

The administration of US President Donald Trump chose to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions on Wednesday despite its criticism of the agreement.That was a relief to Rouhani, who made the 2015 nuclear deal the centrepiece of his efforts to end Iran's isolation and rebuild its economy with foreign investment.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Thursday imposed sanctions on nine USA firms and individuals in retaliation for new sanctions on the Islamic republic over its missile programme.

Under the 2015 deal, the USA and other world powers eased sanctions after the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had taken a series of steps to pull its nuclear program back from the brink of weapons capability.

"The Trump administration's decision to issue sanctions waivers today, as required by the nuclear deal with Iran, is a welcome and necessary step", Kelsey Davenport, of the Arms Control Association, said in a statement. The waivers, which exempt foreign companies that do business with Iran from United States sanctions still on the books, will expire before Iranian's go to the polls to elect their next president on Friday.

The waiver Wednesday of sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program has been expected since last month, when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Iran to be in compliance with the 2015 agreement that relieves sanctions in exchange for rollbacks in Iran's nuclear program.

To remind you, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is the title of dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran designed and signed by President Obama.

Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif calls US sanctions bluff. That is to say, those elections coincide with President Trump's first official oversees visit, which will start in Saudi Arabia before proceeding to Israel, both of which will be the object of discussions about confronting Iranian influence in the region.

Iran holds a presidential election on Friday with President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist cleric whose administration reached the nuclear deal, battling a conservative challenger and trying to convince voters he can deliver economic growth.

Richard Nephew, a former U.S. negotiator with Iran now at Columbia University, called the renewal an "important step" in maintaining the deal but said it was still threatened by "congressional pressure, Republican politics, and the views of many people" in the Trump administration.

Ruan Runling, a Chinese national, and three Chinese companies were sanctioned for their proliferation activities in support of a key designated Iranian defence entity, the Treasury statement said.

The sanctions imposed over Iran's record on human rights, terrorism and ballistic missiles has scared valuable foreign investors seen as indispensable to reviving the economy.

"It is alarming that individuals involved with Iran's missile program are assisting the brutal Assad regime, and we are taking action to curtail this behavior", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The timing is meant to show a hard stance on Iran - even as the administration continues to comply with the Iran nuclear deal.

The US says the programme is a breach of worldwide law because the missiles could carry nuclear warheads in the future.

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