One of Iran’s top diplomats, Abbas Araghchi, who is a deputy foreign minister and held a senior position as a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, has warned that U.S. President Donald Trump does in fact have the power to “tear apart” the agreement. Araghchi pointed out that the U.S. president has the power to either extend sanctions waivers on Iran, as President Obama did, or refuse to do so. “If Trump does not extend the waivers then sanctions on Iran will effectively return and that will in reality be the end of the [2015] nuclear agreement,” he said.

Comment: The potential for the United States to toughen its sanctions on Tehran unilaterally has already become a serious concern for Iranian officials. The most recent example involved the French energy company, Total. Total, which has been one of the first international oil companies from the West to move into Iran after the sanctions were lifted, announced on February 9 that “its final Iran project investment decision will depend on renewal of U.S. waivers.” According to Total’s Chief Executive, Patrick Pouyanne, “there are two executive orders [by the U.S. president] that are supposed to be renewed before summer 2017.” In other words, European and probably some Asian firms will continue to wait and see if President Trump will be willing to sign “waivers” (that is, to suspend certain U.S. sanctions on Iran) as President Obama had done. The waivers that Obama signed – and which gave companies like Total the confidence to go into Iran - will expire in May 2017. This is why the French company is waiting until this summer (after May) to see if it will go ahead with a $2 billion investment in South Pars gas field.