The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the Obama administration is preparing sanctions on nearly a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates linked to Iran’s ballistic missile program. These would be the first new sanctions against Iran since the landmark nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and global powers in July.
The Journal notes that U.S. officials say that under the deal, which traded sanctions relief for a halt to Iran’s nuclear enrichment activities, the Treasury department still retains the rights to issue new sanctions against Iran over non-nuclear issues such as human rights, support for terrorism, and ballistic missile development.
Iran has tested ballistic missiles twice since the agreement went into effect. A U.N. Security Council report recently found that the first of these tests, in October, violated a U.N. resolution banning ballistic missile tests in Iran.
The Iranian government, meanwhile, has argued that U.S. security measures passed in the wake of the San Bernardino and Paris attacks violate the nuclear deal. Those measures require citizens of 38 countries that normally have visa-waivers for travel to the U.S. to obtain visas if they’ve traveled to a number of countries including Iran in the past five years,.
As for the nuclear deal itself, everything’s actually going according to plan so far despite these tangential hiccups. A Russian ship left Iran on Monday carrying almost all of the country’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium, as required under the agreement. The State Department says it may be only weeks until “implementation day,” when the deal takes effect. At that point $100 billion in Iranian assets around the world will be unfrozen, and the country will once again be able to sell its oil on world markets.
So essentially, the Obama administration is preparing to lift one set of sanctions on Iran at the same time its planning new ones. While this situation is admittedly very awkward, it doesn’t really undermine the underlying goal of the nuclear deal.
To be fair, the president was always careful to make clear that the deal only applied to Iran’s nuclear program rather than the wider disagreements between Washington and Tehran. Still, this didn’t stop many from hoping that it might be the beginning of a wider rapprochement. From the missile tests, to the new sanctions, to the continued imprisonment of reporter Jason Rezaian and other American citizens, it’s becoming clear that we’re not going to see a wider opening for quite some time.