Trump says Iran vi­o­lat­ing spirit of nuke deal

Pres­i­dent cites no specifics, doesn’t com­mit on pull­out

The Dallas Morning News - - NATION - Josh Le­d­er­man and Jill Colvin,

WASH­ING­TON — Iran is fail­ing to ful­fill the spirit of its nu­clear deal with world pow­ers, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­clared Thurs­day, set­ting an omi­nous tone for his forth­com­ing de­ci­sion about whether to pull the U.S. out of the land­mark agree­ment.

As he of­ten did dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Trump ripped into the deal struck by Iran, the U.S. and other world pow­ers in 2015 and said “it shouldn’t have been signed.” Yet he point­edly stopped sort of tele­graph­ing whether the U.S. would stay in.

“They are not liv­ing up to the spirit of the agree­ment, I can tell you that,” Trump said of the Ira­ni­ans, though he did not men­tion any spe­cific vi­o­la­tions. Ear­lier this week, the ad­min­is­tra­tion cer­ti­fied to Congress than Iran was com­ply­ing — at least tech­ni­cally — with the terms of the deal, clear­ing the way for Iran to con­tinue en­joy­ing sanc­tions re­lief in the near term.

In a news con­fer­ence along­side Ital­ian Premier Paolo Gen­tiloni, Trump also said:

The U.S. is com­mit­ted to a strong Europe, though he didn’t say di­rectly whether he prefers that the Euro­pean Union stay in­tact.

He sees no mil­i­tary role for the U.S. in sta­bi­liz­ing Libya.

He may soon be able to strike deals with Congress on both health care and fund­ing leg­is­la­tion to head off a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

On Iran, Trump and his top of­fi­cials have been walk­ing a nar­row line as they seek to show an ag­gres­sive stance. While dis­parag­ing the nu­clear deal and ac­cus­ing Iran of fo­ment­ing vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism through­out the Mid­dle East, Trump has avoided com­mit­ting to aban­don­ing the agree­ment, a move that would be staunchly op­posed by U.S. busi­nesses and Euro­pean al­lies.

Yet the pres­i­dent seems keenly aware that his in­de­ci­sive­ness about the deal’s fu­ture is a step back from his cam­paign dec­la­ra­tion that as pres­i­dent he would rip it up or rene­go­ti­ate.

He said of Iran, “I think they are do­ing a tremen­dous dis­ser­vice to an agree­ment that was signed.”

Un­der the deal, bro­kered dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, Iran agreed roll back key as­pects of its nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for re­lief from cer­tain eco­nomic sanc­tions. Crit­ics have said it’s un­fath­omable that the U.S. would grant sanc­tions re­lief to Tehran even as it con­tin­ues test­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles, vi­o­lat­ing hu­man rights and sup­port­ing ex­trem­ist groups else­where in the Mid­dle East.

By de­sign, the nu­clear deal does not ad­dress those Western griev­ances, mean­ing Tehran can be in com­pli­ance even as it vi­o­lates U.N. res­o­lu­tions and re­mains a U.S.-des­ig­nated state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism. The U.S. has con­tin­ued to pun­ish Tehran for those ac­tiv­i­ties with sanc­tions that also fall out­side the purview of the deal.

Trump hasn’t given a time­line for when his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­view of Iran pol­icy — in­clud­ing whether to stick with the deal — will be com­plete. But the U.S. must de­cide next month whether to re­new a waiver so that Iran can con­tinue re­ceiv­ing sanc­tions re­lief.

The pres­i­dent joined Gen­tiloni for a White House news con­fer­ence at a tense time for Europe, which was reel­ing anew from a deadly at­tack in Paris on Thurs­day ahead of a piv­otal pres­i­den­tial vote in France on Sun­day. The French elec­tion is be­ing seen as a bell­wether for whether the move to­ward na­tion­al­ism and sep­a­ra­tion from the Euro­pean Union, dis­played by Bri­tain’s move to leave the EU, will con­tinue spread­ing to other Euro­pean coun­tries.

Ad­dress­ing other na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns, Trump said he did not see a role for the U.S. in Libya, adding that the U.S. “has right now enough roles.” Trump has crit­i­cized the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for a 2011 mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion that he says cre­ated a power vac­uum that led Libya to slip into chaos.

Trump also voiced optimism that the U.S. had en­listed China to try to per­suade North Korea to give up its nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

“We don’t know whether or not they’re able to do that, but I have ab­so­lute con­fi­dence that he will be try­ing very, very hard,” Trump said, re­fer­ring to Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

Al Drago/The New York Times

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump joined Ital­ian Premier Paolo Gen­tiloni for a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day at a tense time for Europe, which is reel­ing from a deadly at­tack in Paris.

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