The United States has announced economic sanctions on 11 individuals and companies in Iran accused of supporting Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) or engaging in cyber attacks on US banks, but has decided to continue for now to exempt Iran from nuclear-related sanctions.
“Treasury will continue to take strong actions to counter Iran’s provocations, including support for the IRGC-Qods Force and terrorist extremists, the ongoing campaign of violence in Syria, and cyber-attacks meant to destabilize the US financial system,” Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement on Thursday.
The new sanctions targeted an engineering company, two air transport firms and an IT company accused of carrying out denial-of-service attacks on at least nine American financial institutions, including major banks and stock exchanges between 2011 and 2012.
The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals and companies hold in the US and prohibit American citizens and residents and US companies from doing business with them.
Foreign financial institutions that do business with them risk losing access to the US financial system, according to the Treasury statement.
US retains Iran deal sanctions relief
The move came the same day the White House announced an extension of sanctions relief for Iran under the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The administration of US President Donald Trump agreed to continue for now to exempt Iran from nuclear-related sanctions.
”The administration did approve waivers in order to maintain some flexibility“ as it develops a policy to address the range of Iranian behavior,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.
She said, “Waiving some of those sanctions should not be seen as an indication of President Trump or his administration’s position on the (Iran nuclear deal), nor is the waiver giving" the Iranian government "a pass on its broad range of malign behavior.”
A senior Trump administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called the waiver "a holding action," saying that no decision had been reached on the long-term future of the nuclear agreement.
"This is the action that the US is taking in the interim," he said, "while the president and his cabinet come to final decision in consultation among themselves and in consultation with allies."
Trump has criticized the deal, but some of his top advisers believe he should preserve it.
Trump, who made no secret of opposing the nuclear agreement in his election campaign, has threatened to “tear up” the agreement, calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated.”
Iran breaking 'spirit' of nuclear deal: Trump
Meanwhile, Trump on Thursday accused Iran of violating "the spirit" of the nuclear deal.
"The Iran deal is one of the worst deals I've ever seen, certainly at a minimum the spirit of the deal is atrociously kept," Trump said on Thursday aboard Air Force One.
"The Iran deal is not a fair deal to this country. It's a deal that should not have ever been made," he added.
"You'll see what I'm going to be doing very shortly in October,” he said.
Trump is scheduled to decide on October 15 whether Tehran has breached the 2015 nuclear agreement, and some fear he may abandon the nuclear accord.
The deal was reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries — the US, Russia, China, France, and Britain plus Germany — in July 2015 and took effect in January 2016. Under the deal, Iran undertook to put limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the termination of all nuclear-related sanctions against Tehran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has on multiple occasions affirmed Iran's adherence to its commitments under the nuclear agreement.