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U.S. To Announce More Sanctions Against Iran, Envoy Tells Senate Hearing

The U.S. special representative for Iran and Venezuela, Elliott Abrams

The United States will impose new sanctions on a number of Iranian officials and entities including a judge who sentenced Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari to death, an envoy said.

U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams made the comment at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on September 24 called to discuss the Trump administration’s foreign policy toward the Middle East.

Navid Afkari was executed earlier this month after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018, Iranian state media reported, in a case that has sparked AN international outcry. U.S. President Donald Trump had called for Iran to spare his life.

Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee used the hearing to criticize Trump’s policy toward Iran, saying the president’s decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran has failed.

Trump in 2018 withdrew from the agreement, known as the JCPOA, amid concerns it created a clear path for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Trump has imposed punishing sanctions on Iran to get it to negotiate a new agreement.

The Trump policy “has been a disaster,” Senator Tim Kaine (Democrat-Virginia) told the hearing, adding it has alienated European allies that were part of the agreement. Germany, France, and the United Kingdom were signatories to the JCPOA, along with the EU, Russia and China.

Kaine also said the withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement has potentially “made it much more difficult” to reach a similar deal with North Korea. The United States has shown North Korea that it doesn’t stick to agreements, he said.

In response to questions from New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, the leading Democrat on the committee, Abrams admitted that Iran has “moved a little bit closer” to making a nuclear bomb since the United States pulled out of the JCPOA.

However, Abrams said the Trump administration’s policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran, which includes hundreds of sanctions on individuals and companies, has significantly damaged Iran’s economy and that it expected Tehran to return to talks.

“We think with that [economic] pressure, once the election is over, they will come to the table,” Abrams said.

Trump is seeking reelection on November 3.

Based on reporting by Reuters