“The U.S. and its partners will continue to apply pressure on Iran to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms for everyone in Iran,” said Stuart E. Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who will be traveling with Mr. Trump to the Middle East at the end of the week.
The Trump administration has said that it is continuing to study the Iran nuclear deal, leaving a door open to leaving it at some point.
But three months into the administration, Mr. Trump has softened his criticism — just as he has decided so far not to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, or pull out of NATO, or impose sanctions on China over currency manipulation.
“From the very beginning, it’s been clear they couldn’t renege on the deal without cause,” said Gary Samore, President Barack Obama’s top nuclear adviser in the first term, who helped organize the pressure campaign on Iran that ultimately led it to the negotiating table.
If Mr. Trump had made good on pledges to scrap the arrangement, “the U.S. would have been entirely isolated, and no one else would have resumed sanctions,” said Mr. Samore, who is now the executive director at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard.
The announcement came two days before Iranian elections, and just before Mr. Trump’s first overseas trip as president.
His first stops are in Saudi Arabia and Israel, both of which opposed the deal but now concede it is working, at least so far.
A unit inside the National Security Council has been working on ways to counter Iran, but it is unclear whether it had proposed a far harsher approach.
At a moment when Mr. Trump is consumed by troubles at home and viewed with suspicion by allies, however, there was no appetite in the White House for a breach with Iran.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department announced that among those targeted for sanctions were two senior Iranian military officials, Morteza Farasatpour and Rahim Ahmadi.
Mr. Farasatpour coordinated the sale and delivery of explosives and other material for the Scientific Studies and Research Center of Syria, while Mr. Ahmadi directs the organization responsible for Iran’s solid-fuel ballistic missile program, according to the Treasury Department.
Those sanctions appeared similar to missile-related sanctions that Mr. Obama put in place in January 2016, as the Iran deal went into effect.
The Treasury Department also announced sanctions against a network of companies associated with a Chinese citizen, Ruan Runling, which supports Syria and supplies technology and financing to aid Iran’s missile program.
“This administration is committed to countering Iran’s destabilizing behavior, such as Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and support to the Assad regime,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, speaking of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. “It is alarming that individuals involved with Iran’s missile program are assisting the brutal Assad regime, and we are taking action to curtail this behavior.”
An earlier version of this article misstated the title of Gary Samore. He is the executive director at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, not the director of studies.
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