Trump sig­nals he will choose ap­proach on Iran that...

Iran Daily - - In­ter­na­tional -

The move was more con­se­quen­tial than the de­ci­sion the pres­i­dent faces in Oc­to­ber about whether to re­cer­tify to Congress that Iran is in com­pli­ance with the deal, which has no ef­fect on the nu­clear agree­ment it­self.

Mr. Trump in­sisted that he has not set­tled on an over­all Iran strat­egy and that he would an­nounce one next month. The ap­proach, which aides said Mr. Trump came to re­luc­tantly in a se­ries of Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil meet­ings, is part of a pat­tern that has emerged in the pres­i­dent’s at­tempts to keep his cam­paign prom­ises. Falling short in some cases, in­clud­ing on his hard line on im­mi­gra­tion, Mr. Trump has por­trayed the out­come as con­sis­tent with his stated ob­jec­tives.

Re­turn­ing to Wash­ing­ton on Air Force One on Thurs­day af­ter tour­ing hur­ri­cane-rav­aged South Florida, Mr. Trump again crit­i­cized the Iran agree­ment, but he talked around the ques­tion of whether he would ad­here to it. In­stead, he promised other ac­tion against Iran.

“We are not go­ing to stand for what they’re do­ing to this coun­try,” he told re­porters. “They have vi­o­lated so many dif­fer­ent el­e­ments, but they’ve also vi­o­lated the spirit of that deal. And you will see what we’ll be do­ing in Oc­to­ber. It will be very ev­i­dent.”

The In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency has said Iran has com­plied with its com­mit­ments un­der the ar­range­ment, in­clud­ing in­spec­tions.

An ap­proach that stops short of leav­ing the agree­ment is un­likely to sat­isfy those who see the deal as a build­ing block for en­gage­ment with Iran.

Even Wash­ing­ton’s clos­est ally, Bri­tain, has openly split with those in the ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gu­ing to ditch the ac­cord. At a news con­fer­ence in Lon­don on Thurs­day with Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son, Bri­tain’s for­eign min­is­ter, Boris John­son, noted that “the North Korea cri­sis shows the im­por­tance of hav­ing ar­range­ments such as the JCPOA,” us­ing the acro­nym for the for­mal name of the agree­ment, the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion.

He called it “a po­si­tion you and I have both adopted,” un­der­scor­ing Mr. Tiller­son’s now widely ac­knowl­edged dis­agree­ment with Mr. Trump over the im­por­tance of the deal.

Mr. John­son added that in Iran, “a coun­try of 80 mil­lion peo­ple, many of them young, po­ten­tially lib­eral, could be won over — could be won over to a new way of think­ing.” He said that Ira­ni­ans should see the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the nu­clear deal and that he had em­pha­sized the point to Mr. Tiller­son and other Amer­i­can of­fi­cials.

Mr. Trump’s grad­ual move­ment on Iran has been seen as a bell­wether of a for­eign pol­icy shift un­der­way in the White House, es­pe­cially since the ouster of Stephen K. Ban­non, his for­mer strate­gist. Mr. Ban­non had made con­fronta­tion with China and Iran a cen­tral el­e­ment of his ap­proach to re­assert­ing Amer­i­can pre-em­i­nence around the world.

Two of the pres­i­dent’s re­main­ing ad­vis­ers, Lt. Gen. H. R. Mc­mas­ter, his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, and De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis, are known for hawk­ish views on Iran. But they do not bring to the de­bate a sense that the United States is en­gaged in a clash of civ­i­liza­tions against the coun­try or its ide­ol­ogy.

The Trea­sury Depart­ment did an­nounce new eco­nomic sanc­tions on Thurs­day against in­di­vid­u­als as­so­ci­ated with Iran’s Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion Guards Corps, the Quds Force, and com­pa­nies in­volved in al­legedly hack­ing against Amer­i­can fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions in 2011 and 2012.

In an­nounc­ing the new sanc­tions, a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial, who in­sisted on anonymity while brief­ing a large group of re­porters, said that over the past few years, the United States had fo­cused too nar­rowly on nu­clear is­sues and ig­nored Iran’s some other ac­tiv­i­ties.

Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter, Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, tweeted on Thurs­day that the agree­ment he reached with his coun­ter­part at the time, Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, was not rene­go­tiable. “A ‘bet­ter’ deal is pure fan­tasy,” he wrote. “About time for US to stop spin­ning and be­gin com­ply­ing, just like Iran.”

Mr. Zarif will be in New York next week for the open­ing of the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly, as will Mr. Tiller­son. The two men have never met, nor talked, and there are no plans to change that.

Ken­neth M. Pol­lack, a scholar at the con­ser­va­tive Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, said that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials ap­pear to have con­cluded that rather than un­ravel the deal, they need to find ways to rene­go­ti­ate el­e­ments of it.

Mr. Tiller­son has ar­gued that it is pos­si­ble to both re­tain the ex­ist­ing deal and get al­lies on board for ex­tend­ing the du­ra­tion of the re­stric­tions on Iran’s nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties, while ne­go­ti­at­ing over Iran’s devel­op­ment and test­ing of bal­lis­tic mis­siles.

But he is clearly walk­ing a fine line. It is pos­si­ble, White House of­fi­cials say, that Mr. Trump will stop short of blow­ing up the ac­cord but still in­sist on declar­ing to Congress next month that Iran is vi­o­lat­ing its terms. Such a move would not af­fect the fu­ture of the agree­ment it­self, while a reim­po­si­tion of con­gres­sional sanc­tions would have vi­o­lated its terms.

The above was ex­cerpted from The New York Times.

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