Tuesday, 12 December, 2017

Trump administration talks tougher on Iran but sticks with deal -- for now

Nellie Chapman | 20 April, 2017, 05:53

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pictured in Moscow last week, says Iran has been abiding by a 2015 nuclear agreement.

Tillerson said a 90-day review of the deal by the Trump administration will not only look at whether Iran is complying with the deal, as the State Department certified it was on April 18, but also whether Tehran's behavior in the region continues to undermine USA interests in the region.

"Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining USA interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, and continuing to support attacks against Israel", Tillerson told reporters at the State Department on Wednesday. He said the National Security Council-led interagency review of the agreement will evaluate whether it "is vital to the national security interests of the United States".

"The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran".

The State Department admits that Iran has so far maintained its side of the bargain it struck with world powers in 2015 to curtail its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

President Trump has described the landmark agreement as the "worst deal ever". After the deal was negotiated, he worked with Congress to maintain US sanctions targeting Iran's missile development and alleged human rights violations.

A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of Unites States, Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015.

Critics of the agreement, including Israel, have argued that when some of the terms of the deal expire in 10 and 15 years it will leave Tehran on the threshold of building a bomb. Trump this week ordered his National Security Council to review whether to reimpose sanctions that were eased under the accord because of Iran's continued support for terrorism.

"If this happens our credibility will be forever undermined, not only with Iran, but with the other world powers the United States negotiated with to achieve the JCPOA".

Illustrative: Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak.

"Iran's nuclear ambitions are a grave risk to worldwide peace and security", the secretary of state said.

The Trump administration is now conducting a "comprehensive review" of Iran policy, he said.

The White House is aware of "potential negative impacts" from a review ordered by President Donald Trump of whether lifting sanctions through the Iran nuclear deal was in USA national security interests, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

In their first congratulatory phone calls to Trump after his electoral victory, both President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany stressed the need to keep the Iran deal in place.

Candidate Trump made criticism of the pact a centerpiece of his campaign, telling the American Israel Political Action Committee in March 2016 that "my number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran". In January, before he resigned, Michael Flynn, then the national security adviser, walked into the White House briefing room and declared that the administration was "officially putting Iran on notice" after it launched a ballistic missile.