The White House has delayed imposing new financial sanctions on Iran over its ballistic-missile program, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
The shift in thinking appears to come after the Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, ordered his defense minister to accelerate the country’s ballistic missile program and threatened to intensify its missile capacity as a reprisal to the impending sanctions.
In response to new US #sanctions planned against Iran’s ballistic missile program, have ordered the Defense Minister to expedite the program
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) December 31, 2015
The WSJ reports:
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 the delay.
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 destabilizing behavior.”
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 Vienna.
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.