Trump set to bash Iran on non-nuke issues in decertifying deal
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump plans to deliver a broad and harsh critique of Iran in a speech Friday declaring that the landmark Iran nuclear deal is not in America’s national security interests, according to U.S. officials and outside advisers to the administration.
Trump’s speech from the White House will outline specific faults he finds in the 2015 accord but will also focus on an array of Iran’s troubling non-nuclear activities, four officials and advisers said. Those include Tehran’s ballistic missile program, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and other groups that destabilize the region.
Under U.S. law, Trump faces a Sunday deadline to notify Congress whether Iran is complying with the accord that was negotiated over 18 months by the Obama administration and determine if it remains a national security priority. Although Trump intends to say Iran is living up to the letter of the agreement, he will make the case that the deal is fatally flawed and that its non-nuclear behavior violates the spirit of the regional stability it was intended to encourage, the officials and advisers said.
Won’t seek sanctions
The officials and advisers, who insisted on anonymity, said Trump will not call for a reimposition of nuclear sanctions on Tehran. He will urge lawmakers to codify tough new requirements for Tehran to continue to benefit from the sanctions relief that it won in exchange for curbing its atomic program. And he’ll announce his long-anticipated intent to impose sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps by designating it a terrorist organization under an existing executive order, according to the officials and advisers.
In addition, Trump will ask Congress to amend or replace outright the legislation that currently requires him to certify Iranian compliance every 90 days. Officials have said that Trump hates the requirement more than the nuclear deal itself because it forces him to take a position on what he has denounced as the worst deal in American history every three months. That frequency has also irritated aides who have complained that they are spending inordinate amounts of time on certification at the expense of other issues.
At the White House, Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, confirmed the president would announce the results of his Iran policy review on Friday but declined to offer any detail. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was calling foreign minister colleagues from the other parties to the deal to brief them on what to expect.
But in a possible preview of Trump’s announcement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo blasted Iran during a speech at the University of Texas, calling Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Revolutionary Guard “cudgels of a despotic theocracy.”
The IRGC, which is responsible for external operations, is expanding its power across the Middle East, Pompeo said. “Unlike ISIS and its mirage of a caliphate, Iran is now a powerful nation-state that remains the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.”
American allies, who have pressed the White House to remain in the nuclear accord, will be closely watching the president’s address. Trump wants to impress on the European parties to the accord — Germany, France and Britain — the importance of fixing what he sees as flaws in the nuclear accord and addressing bad behavior not covered in the agreement.
The Europeans, along with the other parties, Iran, Russia and China, have ruled out reopening the deal. But some, notably France, have signaled a willingness to tackle unresolved issues in supplementary negotiations. Among those issues are the expiration of several restrictions on advanced nuclear activity under so-called “sunset clauses” that will allow Iran to begin ramping up its enrichment capabilities after 10 years, the end of an arms embargo and the easing of demands for a halt to its missile program.