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Tillerson's JCPOA Plan to Undermine Iran Interests
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Tillerson's JCPOA Plan to Undermine Iran Interests

A plan that is being crafted under the direction of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on how to move forward with the 2015 nuclear accord is meant to deny Tehran the rightful, promised benefits from the deal, a lawmaker said.

"Tillerson's new plan is aimed at depriving Iran of JCPOA's benefits," Mohammad Javad Jamali also said in an interview with ICANA on Friday, using the formal name of the pact, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

As US President Donald Trump considers whether to withdraw from the pact, Tillerson is working behind the scenes with Congress to head off the possibility of an international crisis ahead of the agreement's looming Oct. 15 certification deadline, several US officials and western diplomats have told CNN.

Tillerson and congressional lawmakers are spearheading efforts to amend US legislation regarding Iran to shift focus away from the nuclear issue, a move that could allow the US to stay in the multilateral nuclear deal and also push back against Iran's other activities, officials and diplomats said.

On the surface, a plan to keep the US in the deal by taking a harder line on Iran through legislation seems to run counter to Trump's indications that he prefers scrapping the agreement.

Trump has long railed against the deal reached by his predecessor, Barack Obama, with Iran to curb its nuclear work.

His administration is wrapping up a months-long review of US policy toward Iran and the hawkish president has hinted at a series of events that he favors leaving the deal despite a more cautious message from several congressional Republicans, Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Tillerson floated the broad brushstrokes of his plan to foreign ministers whose countries are party to the deal—Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and Iran—last month in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

All the ministers had argued that the deal was designed to address issues solely related to Iran's nuclear program, according to several diplomats who attended the meeting.

By all accounts, Iran had lived up to its commitments under the agreement, and European leaders signaled they were not interested in expanding the scope of its implementation, they said.

***Move to Curb Backlash

Mojtaba Zolnouri, the head of the Nuclear Committee of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said the plan is intended to cushion the blow to Washington's international credibility in case of Trump's withdrawal from the deal, by making it more acceptable to its European allies.

"Leaving the JCPOA would be costly for the Americans, so Tillerson's plan is part of a new strategy to avoid this [the high cost] and rally the Europeans' support for implementing hostile measures against Iran," Zolnouri said.

Under Tillerson's initiative, instead of certifying that Iran is meeting its technical commitments under the nuclear deal, the administration would report to Congress regularly about broader Iranian behavior, such as support for resistance groups and its ballistic missile program and what the administration is doing to counter it.

This approach could allow the US to stay in the deal, but help Trump avoid the political headache of having to recertify it every 90 days.

It might also keep the Europeans, who want to keep the deal, on board with administration efforts to fight alleged Iran's destabilizing activities in the region.

Tillerson has said he will present Trump with multiple options regarding the future of JCPOA ahead of the mid-October certification deadline, although he did not disclose details about those options, Reuters reported.

"We'll have a recommendation for the president. We're going to give him a couple of options of how to move forward to advance the important policy toward Iran," Tillerson told reporters at the US State Department on Wednesday.

 

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