Iran nuclear deal set for reprieve as Donald Trump prepares to extend waivers

Donald Trump is to extend waivers on Iran sanctions, keeping the landmark 2015 nuclear deal alive for at least another few months despite his vows to scuttle the deal, according to sources in Washington.

The waivers are due to be announced later, and will be accompanied by other targeted sanctions on Tehran and a stern warning that the president will pull out of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration if fixes are not made by spring.

That is when the next deadline comes for extending sanctions relief for Iran.

The officials said Mr Trump's waiver announcement will include harsh criticism of Tehran's response to recent protests against the Islamic Republic's leadership.

Mr Trump's decision has been expected since earlier this week.

Officials, congressional aides and outside administration advisers said the president would probably extend the sanctions waivers, citing progress in amending US legislation that governs Washington's participation in the accord.

The president received a formal recommendation from secretary of state Rex Tillerson, defence secretary James Mattis and national security adviser HR McMaster on Thursday, officials said.

Their advice is opposed by some Republican lawmakers.

The sanctions Mr Trump has to waive deal with Iran's central bank.

During Barack Obama's presidency, these penalties largely cut Tehran out of the international financial system, until they were suspended under the nuclear deal.

While Mr Trump will continue that suspension, he is preparing to impose penalties on Iranian entities for other behaviour the US finds objectionable, such as missile testing and alleged human rights violations.

That balance is aimed at satisfying Mr Trump's demand to raise pressure on Iran, while not embarking on a frontal assault on the most central trade-offs of the nuclear agreement.

While the US and other world powers rolled back economic restrictions on Tehran, the Iranians severely curtailed their enrichment of uranium and other nuclear activity.

Mr Trump has complained that many of the Iranian restrictions expire next decade and has vacillated between talk of toughening the deal and pulling the US out entirely.

Meanwhile, the administration is trying to secure a face-saving fix from Congress on the requirement for the president to address Iran's compliance every three months.

In October, he decertified the nuclear deal under US law, saying the sanctions relief was disproportionate to Iran's nuclear concessions, and describing the arrangement as contrary to America's national security interests.

He has particularly bristled at having to give Iran a "thumbs up" every few months by acknowledging that it is meeting its nuclear requirements, which should allow it to invest in foreign banks, sell petroleum overseas and buy US and European aircraft.

- AP

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