House Delays Imposing New Sanctions on Iran for Missile Program
By Jay Solomon
Wall Street Journal
December 31, 2015
WASHINGTON—The White House has
plan to impose new financial sanctions on Iran for its ballistic
missile program, according to U.S. officials, amid growing tensions with Iran
over the nuclear deal struck earlier this year.
The officials said the Obama
administration remains committed to combating Iran’s missile program and that
sanctions being developed by the U.S. Treasury Department remain on the table. They
also said imposing such penalties was legal under the landmark nuclear agreement
forged between global powers and Iran in July.
U.S. officials offered no
definitive timeline for when the sanctions would be imposed after the decision
was made Wednesday to delay them. At one point, they were scheduled to be
announced Wednesday morning in Washington, according to a notification the White
House sent to Congress.
Republican leaders on Thursday
accused the Obama administration of losing its will to challenge Iran after
Tehran countered on Thursday that it
would accelerate the development of its arsenal.
“If the president’s announced
sanctions ultimately aren’t executed, it would demonstrate a level of
fecklessness that even the president hasn’t shown before,” said Rep. Mike
Pompeo (R., Kan.), a leading critic of the nuclear deal, in an interview.
Critics of the planned sanctions
had already charged they weren’t an adequate U.S. response to Iran’s
continuing development of its missile program.
President Hassan Rouhani said
Thursday morning on Twitter that he had instructed Iran’s Ministry of Defense
to accelerate the development of ballistic missiles in response to the news
reports of the impending U.S. sanctions.
Asked to comment, State Department
spokesman John Kirby said the timeline for missile-related sanctions was
unrelated to threats made by Iran on Thursday and the broader nuclear deal
recently reached with Tehran. The State Department offered no explanation for
Mr. Kirby said: “We’ve been
clear from the outset that—outside the parameters of Iran’s nuclear
program—we would continue to take appropriate actions to address Tehran’s
The White House on Wednesday
morning sent a notification to Congress that the Treasury Department would
announce at 10:30 a.m. new sanctions on nearly a dozen companies and individuals
in Iran, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates for their alleged role in
developing Iran’s ballistic missile program.
The sanctions would have been the
first imposed on Iran since the nuclear agreement was reached last July in
The White House then sent a second
email to congressional offices at 11:12 a.m. stating the sanctions announcement
had been “delayed for a few hours,” according to a copy of the
communications seen by The Wall Street Journal.
In a final White House email sent
just after 10 p.m., officials said the sanctions had been delayed, and didn’t
specify when they might go ahead.
“We are considering various
aspects related to additional designations, as well as evolving diplomatic work
that is consistent with our national security interests, and as such we will not
be announcing any additional designations today,” the White House email said.
“We will continue to keep you informed as we work through remaining issues.”
Obama administration officials
have said the U.S. could begin implementing the nuclear agreement in January
given that Iran has taken steps to begin rolling back key parts of its nuclear
program. As part of the deal, the U.S. committed
to unfreezing as much as $100 billion in Iranian oil money frozen in
Iranian leaders, though, have
repeatedly warned the U.S. in recent months that any new sanctions on Iran,
including penalties related to missile development, could undermine the deal’s
U.S. officials have said Secretary
of State John Kerry has been in nearly constant contact with his Iranian
counterpart, Javad Zarif, on the issue of the nuclear agreement and its
Mr. Rouhani, in his tweets
Thursday, accused Washington of violating the deal.
“If U.S. continues its
illegitimate interference with Iran’s right to defend itself, a new program
will be devised to enhance missile capabilities,” the Iranian president said.
“We have never negotiated regarding our defense capabilities including our
missile program and will not accept any restrictions in this regard.”