Middle East

Trump meets top aides to decide on Iran sanctions

US President Donald Trump convened his top national security advisers Thursday to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran at the risk of sinking the 2015 nuclear deal.

US President Donald Trump was meeting with his top security advisors on Iran sanctions relief
US President Donald Trump was meeting with his top security advisors on Iran sanctions relief (AFP)

US President Donald Trump convened his top national security advisers Thursday to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran at the risk of sinking the 2015 nuclear deal.

State Department officials said Trump was expected to make a decision at the meeting, but that it was not clear whether it would be announced later Thursday or on Friday.

"The president still strongly believes this is one of the worst deals of all time," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

"One of the single greatest flaws is its restrictions leave Iran free ... to openly develop their nuclear program and rapidly achieve a nuclear weapons breakout capability.

"Obviously, we see a big problem with that," she said. "The administration is continuing to work with Congress and with our allies to address those flaws."

Sanders did not say when an announcement would be made, but Assistant Secretary of State Steve Goldstein said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was at the White House and that a decision was imminent.

"The secretary has been at the White House almost every day. He was there yesterday for many, many hours. The decision meeting is this afternoon," he told reporters.

"From that, the decision will be made. I'm not sure when the announcement will be made, whether it will be made tonight or whether it will be tomorrow," he said.

A senior State Department official, speaking anonymously to give more detail, said the meeting was expected to end at 3:45 pm (1845 GMT) and an announcement then to be made within a few hours.

"I suppose there's always a possibility that it could go long and the timeframe could be tomorrow, but it is possible that the decision will come out tonight," the senior official said.

Trump has already declared that he think the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers in no longer in the United States' national interest.

But he has continued to follow the example of his predecessor Barack Obama in regularly signing sanctions waivers so that US economic measures against Tehran do not "snap back."

The deadlines for a number of these waivers to be renewed will fall over the coming week, and Trump is obliged to decide whether or not to maintain sanctions relief.

If he does allow the sanctions to go back into effect, Iran will accuse the United States of breaking the deal, under which Tehran agreed to various controls on its nuclear program.

European capitals will also be dismayed, having pressed Washington to accept that the deal was an international agreement and that Iran has abided by its terms.