Iran

Tillerson: Iran is “Leading Sponsor of Terror,” U.S. Reviewing Lifting of Sanctions

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denounced Iran as “a leading state sponsor of terror” on Tuesday, revealing that the Trump administration has ordered a review on whether continuing to lift nuclear-related sanctions on Iran is in the national security interest of the United States.

“When the interagency review is completed, the administration looks forward to working with Congress on this issue,” Tillerson wrote in a letter sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R – Wisc.).

Tillerson’s letter acknowledged that as of April 18th, the administration found Iran to be in compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal. The administration is required by law to report to Congress on Iran’s compliance every 90 days. The language of Tillerson’s letter suggests that the White House is likely to ramp up pressure on Iran for its continued terror support in the wake of the 2015 nuclear deal.

While speaking of the nuclear deal during his 2016 election campaign, President Donald Trump said that he would “tear it up,” a position the administration has since moderated. However, the terms of the nuclear deal give the administration leeway in terms of enforcement, Foreign Policy reported Monday: “The Trump White House is mulling taking a much more forceful stance on enforcing the deal to the letter.”

Last week, the Treasury Department sanctioned Sohrab Soleimani, the younger brother of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, for human rights abuses he committed as head of Iran’s notorious Evin prison. Treasury also sanctioned eight organizations linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in February.

Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Foreign Policy that last week’s action was a “further indication that the Trump administration will be taking a much tougher line in applying sanctions than did its predecessor.”

Foreign Policy also reported that “there is growing bipartisan support for pushing back against Iran through additional sanctions,” as evidenced by two bills targeting Iran’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East, which were introduced in both houses of Congress last month.

While Iran considers the introduction or renewal of any sanctions to be a violation of the nuclear deal, members of both parties in the U.S. support imposing them for non-nuclear-related reasons, such as human rights violations and financing of terror. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry was emphatic that Iran agreed non-nuclear-related sanctions did not violate the nuclear deal at a July 2015 hearing.

Iran’s continued support for terror since the implementation of the nuclear deal has been a major concern for the Trump administration, the Free Beacon reported Wednesday.

“I think the key is what comes next,” a senior administration official close to the interagency review of the nuclear deal told the Free Beacon. “The question of ongoing sanctions relief will be critical—Iran has already gotten significant economic benefits from the nuclear deal and we need to take a hard look at what Iran is doing with the resources that continue to flow in.”

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