The decision will upset Iran hawks in Washington and be welcomed by Russia, China, European allies and the Iranian officials.
The issue is emblematic of the tension inside the administration over the implementation of President Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy, The Washington Post reported.
In an Oval Office meeting last week, Trump sided with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who argued that the administration should again renew sanctions waivers related to five separate parts of Iran’s nuclear program.
Mnuchin prevailed over the objections of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, according to six administration officials. Pompeo, who is the lead official on the issue, will nevertheless support Trump’s decision when it is announced later this week.
Mnuchin, these six officials said, argued to Trump that if the sanctions were not again waived as required by law by Aug. 1, the United States would have to sanction Russian, Chinese and European firms that are involved in projects inside Iran that were established as part of the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Treasury Department asked for more time to navigate the collateral effects of these sanctions.
“We still have the goal of ending these waivers,” a senior administration official told me. “These waivers can be revoked at any time, as developments with Iran warrant. But because of the Treasury Department’s legitimate concerns, we’ve decided to extend them for now.”
These projects include modifying a heavy-water reactor in Arak and converting an enrichment center at Fordo as well as fuel exchanges at the Bushehr nuclear reactor facility and the Tehran Research Reactor.
The State Department, which is the lead government agency on the issue, last renewed the waivers in May even as it declined to renew two other nuclear-related sanctions waivers. The soon-to-be-announced waiver extensions will give those projects another 90 days of immunity.
In April, the Trump administration canceled all waivers for all imports of Iranian oil.
The National Security Council, the State Department and the Treasury Department all declined to comment on the record about internal deliberations.
Earlier this month, Trump seemed to indicate that the nuclear waivers would not be extended, when he reacted on Twitter to news that Iran had exceeded the uranium enrichment levels agreed under the nuclear deal. “Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!” he tweeted.