US Moves to Extend Iran Sanctions Relief

The U.S. considers Iran a leading state sponsor of terrorism due to its support of militant Palestinian groups like Hezbollah, as well as its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"The comprehensive Iran policy requires that we address all of the threats posed by Iran, and it is clear there are many".

United States President Donald Trump took a "prudent" step in seeking a 90-day inter-agency review of whether lifting sanctions through the Iran nuclear deal would be in the United States' national security interests, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

The Trump administration ratcheted up the rhetoric on Iran Wednesday, declaring the global deal to restrain Tehran's nuclear program had failed and that Iran continues to be "the world's leading sponsor of terrorism".

He did not say why the Trump administration was not immediately pulling out of the Iran deal, but analysts have pointed out that such action would likely provoke Iran to begin developing its nuclear program again, and result in few benefits for the United States or its allies in the region.

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Tillerson criticized Iran for its hostility toward Israel, its sponsorship of Houthi rebels in Yemen, its backing of Assad, the harassment of US naval vessels plying the Persian Gulf, and cyberattacks against the United States and its allies in the Gulf.

"The administration is doing an Iran review, but from what we hear the focus is more about what happens as parts of the deal expire, as opposed to actually opening the agreement up for renegotiation", the second diplomat said. Yet he pointedly stopped sort of telegraphing whether or not the USA would stay in.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Tillerson said the Iran review, which he announced in a letter to Congress a day earlier, would not only look at Tehran's compliance with the nuclear deal but also its actions in the Middle East. He characterized the Obama-era nuclear deal as simply delaying but not destroying Iran's ability to eventually produce a nuclear weapon.

The U.S. still maintains some sanctions against Iran for separate, non-nuclear issues, with Washington accusing Iran of sponsoring terrorism outside its borders and violating human rights at home. He said one of the mistakes of the deal was how it "completely ignored" other threats posed by Iran.

"I think the Iran deal is the dumbest deal you could imagine".

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He levelled the charge as the Trump administration launches a review of its policy towards Tehran.

Iran has defended its nuclear programme as purely civilian and its supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei warned in November that Tehran would retaliate if the U.S. breached the nuclear agreement.

Trump faces a mid-May deadline, as imposed by Congress, to decide whether to continue the suspension of sanctions. Tuesday's was the first update for the Trump administration.

Obama, Kerry and others who negotiated the deal strenuously defended its terms and said the agreement made the world a safer place.

Iran has so far made no public comments on the latest developments.

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