U.S. extends sanctions relief under Iran nuclear deal

The U.S. imposed new measures aimed at punishing Iran for developing ballistic missiles while continuing to suspend sanctions linked to its nuclear program, in a reflection of the Trump administration's hard balancing act toward the Islamic Republic.

He said Iran would retaliate by adding nine USA individuals and companies to its own sanctions list, accusing them of "clear violations of human rights" in relation to their support for Israel or "terrorist groups" in the Middle East.

But the administration also imposed unrelated sanctions on two Iranian defense officials, an Iranian company and members of a China-based network for supporting Iran's ballistic missile program. Better to have a plan to deal with Iran in place before Trump demands changes in the agreement that would force the Iranians to either limit their nuclear program or scuttle the deal.

Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former United States assistant secretary of defence, said the Trump administration's continuation of the nuclear deal is similar to the situation with China.

Iran has also warned that it would restore its nuclear activities to the pre-JCPOA level, if the other side - especially the USA - fails to keep its end of the bargain.

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.

Iran holds a presidential election on Friday in which incumbent Hassan Rouhani will be seeking a second term against hardline challengers who say the nuclear pact has not delivered economic recovery as he promised.

OPINION: What will Trump do with the Iran nuclear deal? .

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While the USA says it will continue waiving these sanctions, it is ratcheting up other sanctions related to human rights abuses and the country's ballistic missile program.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department placed sanctions on Iran over concerns about its ballistic missile programme. "At least as of now, it appears that drastically changing United States economic sanctions on Iran is taking a back-seat to domestic concerns", he said. It said Ruan had supplied missile-related technology and goods to an Iranian military technology company.

An Iranian nuclear facility.

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

Regarding the review of Iran policy and the JCPOA that the Trump administration is conducting, former nuclear negotiator Nephew said he understands that it is very much still underway.

Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies non-profit policy group and an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, argued that the Trump administration was pursuing a "waive and slap" approach that temporarily suspends some sanctions while imposing others.

The United States passed up a chance to reimpose sanctions on Tehran's nuclear program Wednesday, deciding to stand by an worldwide accord two days before Iran goes to the polls.

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