White House official promises more Iran sanctions 'very soon'

White House official promises more Iran sanctions 'very soon'
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The Trump administration will impose more sanctions on Iran “very soon,” a senior White House official said Wednesday, hours after the nation announced its intention to stop complying with parts of the nuclear deal.

“Expect more sanctions soon,” Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefense, said at a Foundation for Defense of Democracies conference. “Very soon.”

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Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE’s withdrawal from the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal that offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Trump also in recent weeks ramped up pressure on Iran by ending sanctions waivers for countries buying oil from Iran, designating its Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization and ending waivers for Iran to ship heavy water to Oman and for Russia to process Iranian uranium.

On the withdrawal’s anniversary, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that his country would start stockpiling low-enriched uranium and heavy water.

The end of the U.S. waivers for heavy water and uranium essentially meant Iran either had to stop storing uranium — which the nuclear deal allows in limited amounts — or go above the amount stipulated in the deal.

Rouhani also threatened more steps if Europe does not help Iran benefit from the deal in spite of U.S. sanctions, including resuming work on its Arak nuclear reactor and removing limits on uranium enrichment.

The United States’s European allies opposed Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. The European Union has set up what’s known as a special purpose vehicle to allow its companies to continue business with Iran without U.S. sanctions, but so far no deals have gone through the vehicle.

In his remarks, Morrison accused Iran of extortion against the Europeans. 

“This is a fairly naked attempt at blackmail,” he said. “They’re very clear in their messaging even this morning. They want to see progress made on the special purpose vehicle, they want to see a resumption of oil, or they will walk away from the obligation that they took on. … Europe should resist it and drive Iran to the table to come to a deal.”

Morrison warned businesses against using the special purpose vehicle to skirt U.S. sanctions, saying the United States would “move swiftly against any attempt to undermine our sanctions pressure.” 

“If you’re a bank, an investor, an insurer or other business in Europe,” he said, “you should know that getting involved in the INSTEX special purpose vehicle is a very poor business decision.”