Trump administration sanctions Iranian individuals while continuing sanctions relief

US maintains Iran nuclear deal sanctions relief

Mr Trump has described the landmark agreement as the "worst deal ever".

Still, the USA paired the announcement with new, unrelated sanctions that go after Iran for a ballistic missiles program that Washington fears could target American interests in the Middle East or key allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Under the terms of the deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Since the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015 in which Iran agreed to rein in elements of its nuclear program in exchange for partial sanctions relief from the US and the European Union (EU), Iran has been able to more than double its supply of oil to the market.

"Last month the Treasury Department imposed the first human rights-related sanctions designations against Iranian individuals and entities since December 2014, and we will continue to pursue initiatives around the world that uphold our core values of promoting and protecting human rights", he said. The move to extend the sanctions relief in the meantime was another indication Trump may be laying the groundwork to let the deal stand.

He was sanctioned for his involvement in Iran's solid-fuel ballistic missile programme.

But it imposed new measures to punish Iranian defence officials and a Chinese business tied to Tehran's ballistic missile programme, which it says is in breach of global law because they could carry nuclear warheads in the future. The Obama administration did so in mid January, forcing the Trump administration to decide by Wednesday whether to renew them or to put the wider Iran deal at risk.

Iran holds a presidential election on Friday with President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist cleric whose administration reached the nuclear deal, battling a conservative challenger and trying to convince voters he can deliver economic growth.

Rather than allowing economic sanctions on Iran that the Obama nuclear deal lifted to be re-imposed or tearing up the agreement altogether has he promised during the campaign he would do, President Trump appears to be taking a stab at having it both ways.

While the US says it will continue waiving these sanctions, it is ratcheting up other sanctions related to human rights abuses and the country's ballistic missile program.

Iranian officials say the country has carried out the missile tests as part of its program to boost defense capabilities, rejecting claims that the tests were in violation of Resolution 2231.

A spokesman for the administration explained that the agreement is undergoing a review and only when that's finished will "comprehensive Iran" policy be formulated.

"This ongoing review does not diminish the US' resolve to continue countering Iran's destabilising activity in the region, whether it is supporting Syria's President Bashar al- Assad's regime, backing terrorist organisations like Hezbollah, or supporting violent militias that undermine governments in Iraq and Yemen", Jones said.

The United States passed up a chance to reimpose sanctions on Tehran's nuclear program Wednesday, deciding to stand by an worldwide accord two days before Iran goes to the polls.