Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The Trump administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran's construction sector while renewing waivers allowing foreign companies to work with the Middle Eastern country's civil nuclear program.
The State Department said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin determined Iran's construction sector was controlled, directly or indirectly, by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian military that the Trump administration designated as a terrorist organization in April.
Because of this connection, The United States has barred the sale, supply or transfer of raw and semi-finished metals, graphite, coal and industrial software to or from Iran for use with its construction sector, the State Department said in a statement.
Pompeo and Mnuchin also prohibited Iran for securing four strategic materials used in its nuclear, military and ballistic missile programs, it said.
The measures are part of the United State's maximum pressure campaign to force Iran back into negotiations over its nuclear program following President Donald Trump pulling out of a landmark, multination pact with Iran aimed at restricting its nuclear program in May 2018.
Relations between the two countries has worsened since, and Iran, in response, has repeatedly reneged on its agreements in that 2015 nuclear deal.
The Trump administration also extended waiver exemptions of the Obama-era deal for a further 90 days to "help preserve oversight of Iran's civil nuclear program, reduce proliferation risks, constrain Iran's ability to shorten its 'breakout time' to a nuclear weapon and prevent the regime from reconstituting sites for proliferation-sensitive purposes," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., criticized Trump for extending the waiver exemptions instead of taking the opportunity to "tear up the catastrophic Obama-Iran nuclear deal once and for all."
"President Trump should immediately order his administration to stop issuing civil nuclear waivers," the senators said in a joint statement. "These waivers allow Iran to build up its nuclear program, including at their Fordow nuclear bunker, which they dug out of the side of a mountain to build nuclear weapons. Iran is now openly violating the nuclear deal and stockpiling dangerous nuclear material. There is no justification for letting them continue to build up their program."
They said they will work with their colleagues in Congress to advance legislation to reverse "this misguided decision."
The sanctions announcement comes days after Mnuchin said the United States would continue to punish Iran through sanctions for pursuing its nuclear program.