As protests rage in Iran, Trump’s Iran policy faces sanctions test

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U.S. President Donald Trump has signalled support for anti-government protests in Iran, but in two weeks he faces a decision on U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic that suddenly seems riskier than it did a week ago.

The six days of demonstrations in several Iranian cities began over economic conditions, and Trump must decide by mid-January whether to continue waiving U.S. sanctions on Iran’s oil exports under the terms of an international nuclear deal.

If he reimposes sanctions on oil, it could increase the economic pain for Iran’s leaders. But analysts said it could also send the wrong message about U.S. support for Iran’s people in the middle of the boldest challenge to the leadership in a decade.

The sanctions waivers were included in the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran that eased economic pressure on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.

Reviving sanctions on Iran’s main export would allow Tehran to argue that the United States is ultimately the cause of Iran’s economic problems, said Richard Nephew, who worked on sanctions policy at the White House under President Barack Obama.

“Let’s say Trump was inclined not to renew the waivers. I think that (the protests) make it very hard for him to do that now because now that plays into the regime’s hands in a way that I don’t frankly think the administration is going to want to do,” said Nephew, now at Columbia University’s Centre on Global Energy Policy.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump has not made a final decision on whether to waive sanctions. Asked whether the protests had changed Trump’s calculation, she replied: “Not necessarily.”

BLAME THE OUTSIDERS

Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Iran’s leaders will blame internal troubles on the United States and other outside powers, no matter what Washington does.

“The regime’s argument that the world is against us is a constant for 38 years,” Takeyh said in a telephone

 

 

 

Source: Reuters