US Administration Working to Bolster Nuclear Pact

US President Barack ObamaUS President Barack Obama

In a bid to secure the Iran nuclear deal before US President Barack Obama leaves office, his administration is working to stave off any additional sanctions and encouraging American companies to do business with Iran, an unnamed US official told CNN.

The moves have already met with opposition on Capitol Hill with the Republican leadership in the House sending a letter Tuesday to Obama asking his administration to cease efforts to facilitate companies doing business with Iran during the transition period.

"We respectfully request that your administration take no further actions designed to bolster international investment in Iran," House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce wrote.

"President-elect Trump deserves the opportunity to assess United States policy toward Iran without your administration imposing or implementing additional measures that could complicate the incoming administration's ability to develop its policy."

A senior State Department official who is involved in the negotiations told CNN that there was "no specific effort to seal things irretrievably before the end of the term, rather just to keep meeting our commitments under the JCPOA", using the abbreviation for the accord.

The official added that the administration is not seeking to roll back any existing sanctions but is hoping to prevent the Republican-controlled Congress from extending the Iran Sanctions Act beyond 10 years.

The administration's actions were first reported in the Wall Street Journal. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to extend the act for another 10 years last week. The act sanctions Iran for its alleged support of terrorist organizations but also grants the president the authority to levy additional sanctions on Tehran, if it is found to be violating the terms of the nuclear deal.

  Renewed Push

The official said the US had also bolstered efforts to sway US companies to do more business in Iran as part of a bid to secure Iran's continued adherence to the accord.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry briefed a number of firms in London to help explain how US companies can invest in Iran, educating them as to what type of business they can do there and what types of business they cannot.

The renewed push the official explained was due to Iranians who support the deal, like Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, telling the US that Iranian critics may attempt to kill the deal unless its benefits become more apparent within Iran.

The State Department has previously publicly acknowledged actions it has taken to help explain to US companies how they can do business in Iran while avoiding some of the non-nuclear related sanctions that remain in place.

These administration's efforts come as president-elect Donald Trump prepares to assume office in January. Trump has indicated he may be willing to scrap the deal on his first day in office, something his political ally, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, said was possible.

"I would advise Donald Trump to do exactly what he said ...which is to dismantle that disastrous deal," Cotton said last week at the Defense One Summit in Washington.

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest addressed these reports on Tuesday, saying, "I can confirm for you that I do not anticipate any actions being taken that were initiated after the election solely in response to Mr. Trump's victory.

"Any actions that are taken, if there are any, are the kinds of actions that have been in the pipeline for quite some time and are entirely consistent with the United States upholding our end of [the nuclear] agreement."  

Asked about reports of renewed efforts to strengthen the accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a spokesman for the State Department said on Monday that there were no new decisions to announce.

"Obviously, we're going to stay committed to meeting our JCPOA commitments and obviously continue to believe that the Iran deal is the right thing for the country and for our interests," State Department Spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.


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