Trump Expected to Decertify Iran Nuclear Deal

The Russian foreign minister said it is very important to preserve the nuclear deal in its current form and that the participation of the US will be a significant factor in this regard
US President Donald Trump meets military leaders at the White House on Oct. 5.US President Donald Trump meets military leaders at the White House on Oct. 5.

US President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal on Iran's nuclear program, a senior administration official said on Thursday, in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Trump is also expected to roll out a broader US strategy on Iran that would be more confrontational, Reuters reported.

The Trump administration has frequently criticized Iran's conduct in the Middle East.

Trump, who has called the pact an "embarrassment" and "the worst deal ever negotiated," has been weighing whether it serves US security interests as he faces an Oct. 15 deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with its terms.

"We must not allow Iran ... to obtain nuclear weapons," Trump said during a meeting with military leaders at the White House on Thursday.

Iran denies the allegation that it might be pursuing nuclear arms.

In his speech at the UN General Assembly, Trump claimed without presenting any evidence, "The Iranian [government] supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East. That is why we must put an end to Iran's continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement."

Asked about his decision on whether to certify the landmark deal, Trump said, "You'll be hearing about Iran very shortly."

Supporters say the nuclear deal's collapse could worsen Middle East tensions, while hardline opponents say it eased sanctions without requiring that Iran end its nuclear program permanently.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly said Tehran would not be the first to violate the accord, under which Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions that had crippled its economy.

If Trump declines to certify Iran's compliance, US congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the agreement.

Whether Congress would be willing to reimpose sanctions is far from clear. While Republicans, and some Democrats, opposed the deal when it was approved in 2015, there is little obvious appetite in Congress for dealing with the Iran issue now.

The prospect that Washington could renege on the pact, which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it.

***US Isolation   

"We, the Europeans, we have hammered this: the agreement is working," said a European diplomat who asked to remain anonymous. "We as Europeans, have repeated ... it's impossible to reopen the agreement. Period. It's impossible."

French President Emmanuel Macron said last month there was no alternative to the nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

A senior Iranian diplomat told Reuters on Thursday the end result of Trump's expected move would lead to the isolation of the United States since the Europeans would continue to support it.

"Many foreign investors told us that they will not be scared away from Iran's market, if Trump decertifies the deal," the diplomat said.

Trump has long criticized the signature foreign policy achievement of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama over issues totally unrelated to the nuclear pact.

Experts believe Trump's breast-beating rhetoric is aimed at selling more arms to Iran's regional adversaries, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while seeking Iranian concessions over other non-nuclear issues.

The administration was considering Oct. 12 for Trump to give a speech on Iran but no final decision had been made, an official said previously.

Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive US responses to Iran's forces, its Shia allies in Iraq and Syria and its support for resistance groups.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a congressional hearing on Tuesday that Iran was "fundamentally" in compliance with the agreement. He also said the United States should consider staying in the deal unless it were proven that Tehran was not abiding by it or that it was not in the US national interest to do so.

When Mattis was asked by a senator whether he thought staying in the deal was in the US national security interest, he replied, "Yes, senator, I do."

A US State Department official wishfully said the Trump administration was "fully committed to addressing the totality of [alleged] Iranian threats and malign activities, and seeks to bring about a change in the Iranian [government's] behavior."

The official claimed that behavior includes ballistic missiles proliferation, "support for terrorism", support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "unrelenting hostility to Israel," "consistently threatening freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf," cyber attacks against the United States and its allies, human rights abuses and "arbitrary detentions of US citizens."

"The JCPOA was expected to contribute to regional and international peace and security, and Iran's [government] is doing everything in its power to undermine peace and security," the official alleged.

***Call for Balanced Decision

However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday he hoped US Trump would make a "balanced" decision on whether to remain engaged in the international nuclear deal.

"It is very important to preserve it in its current form and of course the participation of the United States will be a very significant factor in this regard," Lavrov told reporters on a visit to Kazakhstan.

In addition, Bloomberg on Friday cited three administration officials as saying that Trump is weighing a new strategy to confront Iran's nuclear activities that would leave the nuclear agreement intact for now but ask Congress to toughen a law overseeing Tehran's compliance with the accord.

The goal behind the strategy, which Trump is expected to announce next week, would be to present a unified front from the administration and Congress to European allies, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified.

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