Obama extends national emergency against Iran

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Barack Obama signs the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, D.C. on June 30, 2016. (Photo by UPI)

US President Barack Obama has extended the country’s national emergency with respect to Iran despite last year’s nuclear agreement with Tehran and the P5+1 to lift sanctions.

In a letter sent to Congress on Thursday, Obama told lawmakers that US relations with Iran have not returned to normal, and that it’s necessary to maintain the status quo.

"Our relations with Iran have not yet returned to normal, and the process of implementing the agreements with Iran, dated Jan. 19, 1981, is still under way," Obama wrote in the letter. "For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency ... with respect to Iran."

“The national emergency with respect to Iran that was declared in Executive Order 12170 of November 14, 1979, is to continue in effect beyond November 14, 2016,” he wrote.

The executive order means non-nuclear US sanctions against Iran will remain in effect for at least another year.

A state of emergency gives a US president extraordinary powers, including the ability to seize property, summon the National Guard and hire and fire military officers at will.

The state of emergency also forms the basis for most US sanctions against other countries.

Former US President Jimmy Carter signed two orders in 1979 and 1981, declaring a state of emergency with respect to Iran.

Tehran signed a nuclear deal with the P-5+1 group of countries that included the US in July 2015. The agreement stipulates that Washington end its nuclear-related anti-Iran sanctions.

However, months after the lifting of anti-Iran bans on paper, major foreign banks are wary of doing business with Iran, fearing they would violate restrictions on US banks and face penalties.

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