Trump Waives Sanctions, Calls for Nuclear Deal Overhaul

January 12, 2018

On January 12, President Donald Trump extended sanctions waivers for Iran for the third time. “I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” he said. Trump also warned that he would withdraw from the deal if he judged that an agreement is not within reach. By law, the sanctions can only be waived for a maximum of 120 days, so the administration will revisit the issue again in four months. On the same day, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 14 individuals, including Iran’s judiciary chief, for human rights abuses and supporting weapons proliferation. The following is the full text of President Trump’s statement with remarks by other U.S. officials and lawmakers. 


Statement by the President on the Iran Nuclear Deal

President TrumpThe Iranian regime is the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. It enables Hezbollah, Hamas, and many other terrorists to sow chaos and kill innocent people. It has funded, armed, and trained more than 100,000 militants to spread destruction across the Middle East. It props up the murderous regime of Bashar al Assad, and has helped him slaughter his own people. The regime’s destructive missiles threaten neighboring countries and international shipping. Within Iran, the Supreme Leader and his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps use mass arrests and torture to oppress and silence Iran’s people. Iran’s ruling elite has let their citizens go hungry while enriching themselves by stealing Iran’s national wealth.

Last October, I outlined to the American people—and to the world—my strategy for confronting these and other destructive activities. We are countering Iranian proxy wars in Yemen and Syria. We are cutting off the regime’s money flows to terrorists. We have sanctioned nearly 100 individuals and entities involved with the Iranian regime’s ballistic missile program and its other illicit activities. Today, I am adding 14 more to the sanctions list. We are also supporting the brave Iranian citizens who are demanding change from a corrupt regime that wastes the Iranian people’s money on weapons systems at home and terrorism abroad. And crucially, we are calling on all nations to lend similar support to the Iranian people, who are suffering under a regime that is stifling basic freedoms and denying its citizens the opportunity to build better lives for their families—an opportunity that is every human being’s God-given right.

All this stands in stark contrast to the policy and actions of the previous administration. President Obama failed to act as the Iranian people took to the streets in 2009. He turned a blind eye as Iran built and tested dangerous missiles and exported terror. He curried favor with the Iranian regime in order to push through the disastrously flawed Iran nuclear deal.

I have been very clear about my opinion of that deal. It gave Iran far too much in exchange for far too little. The enormous financial windfall the Iranian regime received because of the deal—access to more than $100 billion, including $1.8 billion in cash—has not been used to better the lives of the Iranian people. Instead, it has served as a slush fund for weapons, terror, and oppression, and to further line the pockets of corrupt regime leaders. The Iranian people know this, which is one reason why so many have taken to the streets to express their outrage.

Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal. Instead, I have outlined two possible paths forward: either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw.

I am open to working with Congress on bipartisan legislation regarding Iran. But any bill I sign must include four critical components.

First, it must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors.

Second, it must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon.

Third, unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date. My policy is to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon—not just for ten years, but forever.

If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume.

Fourth, the legislation must explicitly state in United States law—for the first time—that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.

In 2015, the Obama Administration foolishly traded away strong multilateral sanctions to get its weak nuclear deal. By contrast, my Administration has engaged with key European allies in seeking to secure a new supplemental agreement that would impose new multilateral sanctions if Iran develops or tests long-range missiles, thwarts inspections, or makes progress toward a nuclear weapon—requirements that should have been in the nuclear deal in the first place. And, like the bill I expect from Congress, these provisions of a supplemental agreement must never expire.

I also call on all our allies to take stronger steps with us to confront Iran’s other malign activities. Among other actions, our allies should cut off funding to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its militant proxies, and anyone else who contributes to Iran’s support for terrorism. They should designate Hezbollah—in its entirety—as a terrorist organization. They should join us in constraining Iran’s missile development and stopping its proliferation of missiles, especially to Yemen. They should join us in countering Iran’s cyber threats. They should help us deter Iran’s aggression against international shipping. They should pressure the Iranian regime to stop violating its citizens’ rights. And they should not do business with groups that enrich Iran’s dictatorship or fund the Revolutionary Guard and its terrorist proxies.

Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal. This is a last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.

No one should doubt my word. I said I would not certify the nuclear deal—and I did not. I will also follow through on this pledge. I hereby call on key European countries to join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal, countering Iranian aggression, and supporting the Iranian people. If other nations fail to act during this time, I will terminate our deal with Iran. Those who, for whatever reason, choose not to work with us will be siding with the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions, and against the people of Iran and the peaceful nations of the world.


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

“I think all Americans share the goal of stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Those who opposed implementation of the JCPOA, including myself and the president, opposed it because we believed it was a bad agreement. Before us now is an opportunity to do better. At the president’s request, I have been working with his national security team and a number of my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle on a way to address the flaws in the agreement without violating U.S. commitments. We have made significant progress over the past few months, and as I told the president when he called earlier today, we will continue working hard to achieve our shared goal: a better deal for America that will stand the test of time and actually prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.”

—Jan. 12, 2018, in a statement


House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Engel (D-NY)

“Iran is a menace to the region and to its own people, and it must never have a nuclear weapon. The United States has an essential role to play in pressuring Iran to change its behavior as the world’s most prolific state sponsor of terrorism and a threat to security around the world.

“The decision to maintain sanctions waivers is the right one. But the Trump Administration’s policy announced today sets impossible standards that would ultimately isolate the United States rather than isolating the regime in Tehran. That scenario would allow Iran to rush headlong toward a bomb while harming American credibility and leadership on the global stage.

“I’m all in favor of trying to address the agreement’s weaknesses. But the way to do so is to engage with international partners and build momentum to negotiate new provisions. The wrong approach is to bully countries with arbitrary and unenforceable deadlines.

“And we need to put to rest the canard that Congress can somehow unilaterally change the deal. Any legislation that affects America’s adherence to the deal would make us the country walking away from our commitments. Like it or not, we need to uphold our end of the bargain so that we can hold Iran to its obligations and crack down on the regime’s other destabilizing activities.”

—Jan. 12, 2018, in a statement


Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI)

“The Iran nuclear agreement is working as intended to restrict Iran’s nuclear program. If not for this international agreement, Iran would likely be a nuclear power today and irresponsibly withdrawing from it could accelerate Iran’s path to nuclear weapons and make America less safe.

“Today’s ultimatum is an unforced error by President Trump and a crisis of his own making. He alone will be responsible for the consequences.

“Unilaterally abandoning the deal would drive a wedge between us and our partners, thereby weakening our ability to address other threats and challenges posed by Iran – namely their abuse of human rights, ballistic missile development efforts, and other destabilizing activities around the region.

“The appropriate course of action going forward is to build upon, not throw out the deal. We should work aggressively with our international partners to ensure that necessary restrictions afforded by the Iran deal are appropriately extended or supplemented.

“Unfortunately, the President seems intent on disrupting the international consensus that was achieved by the Iran nuclear deal – with the possible consequence of adding an Iranian nuclear crisis to the one we are already facing with North Korea.”

—Jan. 12, 2018, in a statement


Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

“I commend President Trump for making clear that, going forward, he will not sign yet another waiver of sanctions on Iran. The Obama Iran nuclear deal has proven a catastrophic failure, funneling billions of U.S. dollars to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. And, even more ominously, Iran continues its relentless progress towards developing nuclear weapons and missile technology. We cannot allow that to happen. The threat of a nuclear Iran is our greatest national security threat, and the Islamic Republic can never be allowed weaponry to follow through on their pledge of ‘death to America’ and threaten the lives of millions of Americans.

"Although I wish that sanctions had gone back into effect immediately, I'm heartened that, with each consecutive step, the Trump Administration has moved steadily towards finally terminating the Obama Iran nuclear deal. That is the right direction to be moving.

"Congress now has an opportunity to act. As the President requested, we should come together and pass bipartisan legislation requiring (1) full inspection of all sites in Iran (including military); (2) elimination of any advance notice of inspections; (3) elimination of any sunset on the restrictions; and (4) a complete cessation of Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Critically, if Congress cannot pass that legislation--with full, robust protections, not mere fig leaves--the President has now made clear that he will pull out of the catastrophic Iran nuclear deal.

"Today, millions of Iranians are protesting their brutal and repressive government. Women are heroically removing their burkas, risking torture and death. They are bravely standing against the Ayatollah and for a free Iran with democratic elections. The people of Iran should know that the American people are with you. We too oppose the brutal regime of the Mullahs, and we support your journey to freedom. Nothing would further U.S. national security interests more--or the interests of world peace--than the fall of the Ayatollah, the end of his global campaign of terrorism, and the rise of a free and democratic Iran."

—Jan. 12, 2018, in a statement


Representative Ed Markey (D-MA)

“I am pleased the United States will for the near term continue to meet its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal. Every other party to this agreement, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency, has affirmed that it is doing exactly what it was intended to do – verifiably ensuring that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon” said Senator Markey. “And yet the Trump administration has once again needlessly undermined America’s credibility around the world by threatening to renege on commitments it made not just with Iran, but with some of our most important allies as well, later this year. If America walks away from the Iran nuclear deal, our chances for meaningful negotiations to address another nuclear crisis in North Korea will evaporate. Now more than ever it is essential that the world know the United States will remain true to its word. This is the only way we can build and sustain the international coalition necessary to achieve a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the North Korea challenge. Yet time and again, President Trump and his administration have done the opposite, taking actions that call into question America’s trustworthiness, erode our leadership, and further isolate us from the rest of the international community.”

—Jan. 12, 2018, in a statement


Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

“If President Trump violates the nuclear agreement, he would give Iran the ability to resume its nuclear weapons program and undermine the protestors he claims to support.

“According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, our international partners and our own intelligence community, Iran continues to comply with the nuclear agreement. As long as it’s in place, Iran cannot develop a weapon without our advanced knowledge. Absent a violation, there is no reason to scrap an agreement that prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed the Iranian people protesting in the streets against their government and its policies. Lifting sanctions helped expose their government’s corruption and mismanagement of its economy, and reimposing them now would be turning our back on the Iranian people.

“If President Trump reimposes broad sanctions now, the Iranian government will again be able to deflect blame for its own economic problems onto the United States—undercutting the protestors’ efforts to drive real change in Iran.

“We already have one dangerous nuclear crisis on our hands with North Korea. President Trump would be foolish to create another in the Middle East. To support the Iranian protestors and prevent Tehran from restarting its nuclear weapons program, he must continue to abide by the nuclear agreement.”

— Jan. 10, 2018, in a statement