On Friday, January 12, 2018, President Trump agreed for the third time to waive the application of certain nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, pursuant to the United States’ commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Pursuant to the JCPOA, the U.S. President is required to regularly “waive” the application of certain U.S. sanctions on Iran. Failing to issue the waivers would cause these sanctions to be re-imposed, which arguably would constitute a violation by the United States of its commitments under the JCPOA. (In contrast to President Trump’s failure to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA to the U.S. Congress in October, which was a requirement of U.S. law but had no direct effect on the JCPOA.)
However, President Trump stated that this would be the last time he would issue these waivers unless the European signatories to the deal (Germany, France, and the United Kingdom) agree to rewrite the nuclear deal within the next 120 days.
The 120-day deadline reflects the date on which the next waiver is due. As shown in the chart below, the United States must waive portions of four laws on staggered timelines to meet its commitments under the JCPOA. The next deadline is a waiver of sections of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2012, which would need to be renewed on or before May 13, 2018.
U.S. Sanctions Relief under the JCPOA
|Law||Must be Renewed Every||Last Decision Update||Current Decision Expiration Date|
|National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2012||120 days||January 13, 2018||May 13, 2018|
|Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA)||180 days||Mid-Jan 2018||Mid-July 2018|
|Iran Sanctions Act (ISA)||180 days||Mid-Jan 2018||Mid-July 2018|
|Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (ITRA)||180 days||Mid-Jan 2018||Mid-July 2018|
President Trump’s ultimatum has already met strong resistance in both Europe and Iran. It is unknown how successful U.S. diplomacy will be in building support to renegotiate the JCPOA. There is also the impact of the recent populist uprising in Iran to consider.