WASHINGTON, New York Times, January 12, 2018 — President Trump again stopped short of reimposing punitive sanctions on Iran that could break up its nuclear deal with world powers, the White House said on Friday. But Mr. Trump gave European allies only 120 days to agree to an overhaul of the deal or administration officials said he would pull the United States out of it.
He also approved sanctions against the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Larijani, a powerful figure whom the administration holds culpable for the violent crackdown on recent antigovernment protests.
Mr. Larijani is the most prominent of several Iranian officials and entities blacklisted, a roster of 14 individuals and entities that also includes the cyber unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the United States said has repressed social media networks that protesters can use to share information.
Iran did not immediately react to the announcement, though officials said they were prepared if Mr. Trump had decided to act. Iran’s first vice president, Eshagh Jahangiri, told the semiofficial ISNA news agency, “If the Americans withdraw from the nuclear deal, we will not hold a mourning service; we are fully prepared for any likely event.”
White House officials played up the sanctions against Mr. Larijani as a symbol of Mr. Trump’s displeasure with the Islamic Republic’s government — and solidarity with those who are rallying against it. They predicted that the move would reverberate politically inside Iran, since Mr. Larijani’s brother, Ali Larijani, is the head of Iran’s parliament.
Mr. Trump’s decision came after a Thursday meeting with his national security team on a turbulent day, during which he made a vulgar reference to immigrants in a meeting with senators and told The Wall Street Journal, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un,” referring to the North Korean leader.
Starting on Friday, Mr. Trump faces a series of deadlines related to the Iran nuclear deal and sanctions that were waived as a result of it. The first of those deadlines — for extending or terminating the waiver for the central bank and oil sanctions — is by far the most significant.
In October, Mr. Trump refused to certify the agreement — a decision he is expected to reaffirm next week. At the time, the president warned that he would take further action to nullify the deal if Congress and the allies did not act.
“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies,” he said, “then the agreement will be terminated.”
Republicans in the Senate have drafted legislation that would amend the deal by eliminating its “sunset provisions.”
On Thursday, hours before Mr. Trump made his decision, European foreign ministers met in Brussels with Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, ostensibly to press Tehran about its destabilizing activities in the region, which are putting the nuclear deal at risk.
The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said, “The deal is working — it is delivering on its main goal, which means keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check and under close surveillance.”
In a phone call, President Emmanuel Macron of France also urged Mr. Trump not to scrap the deal. Mr. Macron “reaffirmed France’s determination to see the agreement strictly enforced and the importance for all of its signatories to abide by it,” his office said in a statement.
Privately, some White House officials complained about the phone call with Mr. Macron, which they said could have provoked Mr. Trump. Others said the diplomatic meeting in Brussels was similarly ill-conceived, and they expressed frustration that the legislative efforts in Congress were not progressing quickly enough