WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama allowed the renewal of Iran sanctions, saying they were not necessary should Iran violate the nuclear deal, but that he had no objection.
“This Administration has made clear that an extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, while unnecessary, is entirely consistent with our commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” he said Thursday in a statement, using the formal title for the sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers.
He said he would not sign the law, but also would not veto it, which effectively means it will be enacted.
The 10-year extension to existing sanctions — approved this month by the Senate and last month by the U.S. House of Representatives with the strong backing of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — would facilitate President-elect Donald Trump’s pulling out of the deal, should he choose to do so.
All he has to do, with the act renewed, is not renew the waiver of sanctions allowed to Obama and which he has used to roll back sanctions. Without the act’s renewal, Trump could still pull out of the nuclear deal, but it would require him to be more proactive and take executive actions that could stir controversy.
Trump has not said whether he will pull out of the agreement; he called it a “bad” deal and suggested he would reassess it. At least one of his Cabinet picks, Gen. James Mattis, who is slotted for defense secretary, dislikes the deal but has said it is too late for the United States to pull out.
Obama’s statement made it clear he believed it would be best for Trump to maintain the deal.
“Ensuring the continued implementation of the JCPOA is a top strategic objective for the United States and for our allies and partners around the world,” the statement said. “The JCPOA makes our nation, and the entire world, safer by verifiably ensuring Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon.”
Separately, the State Department and Treasury posted updated sanctions guidelines saying companies would not be penalized for seeking payments from Iran for products and services delivered while the sanctions were waived.