U.S. said ready to recertify Iran effort
Deadline on confirming to Congress compliance with nuclear agreement nears
President Donald Trump’s administration has decided for the second time since January to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement that Trump has called a “disastrous” deal, according to U.S. and foreign officials.
The decision followed what several officials characterized as heated internal debate that culminated at a principals committee last week in a clash between a number of White House officials and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Tillerson has statutory responsibility for certifying Iran’s compliance to Congress every 90 days, a deadline that falls on Monday. Some White House officials and lawmakers argued that Iran has breached the deal in several significant areas. But Tillerson and Mattis noted that international monitors and U.S. allies have assessed the opposite, and said that any sharp change in U.S. posture should await completion of an ongoing administration review of overall policy toward Iran.
As a candidate and president, Trump said he would re-examine and possibly abandon the Iran nuclear deal signed under President Barack Obama. The agreement shut down Tehran’s nuclear weapons program, in some cases for decades, in exchange for an easing of international sanctions.
The administration first certified Iranian compliance in April. The review is expected to be completed before the next 90-day deadline in October, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity about internal deliberations.
Officials cautioned that Trump, who has made clear his disdain for the accord, could decide not to sign off on the recertification between now and the Monday deadline, but said it was unlikely. The decision to recertify was first reported Thursday by The Weekly Standard.
On Tuesday, the administration must comply with a separate deadline, reporting to Congress on Iran’s overall nuclear behavior and deciding whether to waive reinstituting sanctions that were part of the deal that went into effect in January 2016. That report, due 180 days after Trump’s inauguration, was part of restrictions lawmakers put on the agreement, as was the 90-day certification requirement.
In addition to questioning Iran’s compliance with the nuclear accord, the administration has accused Iran of violating United Nations resolutions restricting its development of ballistic missiles, and with support for international terrorism. Even if it decides to recertify Iranian compliance and waive nuclear sanctions, the administration could still impose new sanctions for the terrorism and missile claims.
After Iran test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile in late January, in violation of U.N. resolutions, the administration declared it was putting Iran “on notice” that such behavior would not be tolerated.
“Unlike the previous administration, this administration sees the JCPOA as a symptom, not the disease,” a senior administration official said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the deal signed in July 2015 after years of negotiations between Iran and an international group composed of the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union..
“The disease is broader Iranian aggression. That’s what the strategy review is focused on, and until it’s complete, it’s difficult to know what is the best resolution” on Iran policy, the official said. “The president has been very frank about his opinion.”
Other signatories have been open in their rejection of Trump’s assessment of the deal and warned that they would continue to honor the deal no matter what the United States does.
The White House said Monday that Trump, in interactions with members of a Group of 20 summit held in Germany earlier this month, had called on them to “stop doing business with nations that sponsor terrorism, especially Iran.”
Asked about those comments, EU foreign-policy chief Federika Mogherini said at a Tuesday news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, “I simply reply with the numbers of trade and investments from the EU [that] have increased to Iran in terms of double digits, and this will continue. …The engagement with Iran will continue, and the deal will be implemented in all of its parts by all.”
“I know that in the U.S. there is a review ongoing,” Mogherini said. “We respect that. But we also have the duty to make it clear that the nuclear deal doesn’t belong to one country. It belongs to the international community, to the U.N. system. … We share responsibility to make sure that this continues to be implemented fully by all.”