US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says President Donald Trump may re-impose “very strong” sanctions against Iran in May, but that would not necessarily mean a withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Testifying before a congressional subcommittee on Wednesday, Mnuchin said that Washington was ready to put “primary and secondary sanctions” back in place in case Trump refuses to certify the deal on May 12.
Under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to limit some parts of its peaceful nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions.
Upon the deal’s announcement, the US Congress required then President Barack Obama and his successors to certify Iran’s compliance to the deal every three months.
The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) warns of a “special surprise” if the Trump administration goes ahead with its threat to scuttle the nuclear agreement.
Ever critical of a deal he has repeatedly blasted as “the worst” in history, Trump has been reluctant to deliver his end despite numerous reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other signatories confirming Iran’s commitment.
“If the president doesn’t sign the certification, the sanctions snap back into place,” Mnuchin said. “I do think the primary and secondary sanctions would have an important impact on the Iranian economy, and that’s something he’s thinking about and balancing as he makes his decision.”
According to the secretary, a refusal would not necessarily mean Washington’s withdrawal from the deal, a move that is bound to ignite a diplomatic crisis between Iran and other signatories, namely the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany.
Trump “wants a better deal,” Mnuchin said.
The Trump administration has accused Iran of destabilizing the Middle East. It has also claimed that Tehran’s development of ballistic missiles for defensive purposes is in breach of a UN Security Council resolution that enshrines the deal.
Trump urged Britain, France and Germany in January to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” or he would refuse to waiver sanctions.
Trump hopes the deadline gives the White House and Congress enough time to prepare legislation required to change the deal in the way he wants it.