Trump, Tiller­son clash on nu­clear deal non­com­pli­ance

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR

A heated be­hind-the-scenes de­bate is play­ing out among high-level Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ad­vis­ers over whether the pres­i­dent should de­clare Iran in vi­o­la­tion of the nu­clear ac­cord reached un­der his pre­de­ces­sor, Pres­i­dent Obama.

De­spite harsh crit­i­cism on the cam­paign trail and since tak­ing of­fice, Mr. Trump has grudg­ingly kept the deal alive so far, but he ap­pears in­creas­ingly de­ter­mined to break with some of his top ad­vis­ers on the mat­ter when the nu­clear ac­cord next comes up for re­view in Oc­to­ber, sources say.

Such a move would be a ma­jor first step to­ward ful­fill­ing a cam­paign prom­ise to pull Washington out of the ac­cord but also could trig­ger the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s big­gest clash with U.S. al­lies since with­draw­ing from the Paris cli­mate agree­ment in June.

At is­sue is whether Bri­tain, France and Ger­many, which backed the nu­clear deal two years ago with China and Rus­sia, would side with Mr. Trump in tak­ing a stand against what for­eign pol­icy hawks de­scribe

as clear vi­o­la­tions of the ac­cord and other provo­ca­tions, in­clud­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests, by Iran. Washington could find it­self iso­lated un­less it can clearly place the blame on Iran for vi­o­lat­ing the agree­ment.

Bri­tain, France and Ger­many joined the United States in a com­plaint at the United Na­tions on Wed­nes­day that called a July 27 Ira­nian space rocket launch a threat­en­ing move in vi­o­la­tion of a 2015 U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion. But what re­mains to be seen is whether the three al­lies will take the more con­tro­ver­sial step of back­ing Mr. Trump should he pub­licly pres­sure Tehran in Oc­to­ber.

The nu­clear ac­cord, af­ter years of Ira­nian iso­la­tion, opened the way for Europe to do busi­ness with Tehran by dra­mat­i­cally eas­ing sanc­tions on the Is­lamic repub­lic in ex­change for curbs to nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties that the West be­lieved were geared to­ward the clan­des­tine devel­op­ment of nu­clear bombs.

With un­cer­tainty this week over where the Euro­pean al­lies stand, Sec­re­tary of State Rex W. Tiller­son has ac­knowl­edged that he and Mr. Trump have dif­fer­ent views on the nu­clear ac­cord and how the ad­min­is­tra­tion should use it go­ing for­ward. Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Jour­nal last month that he pre­dicts Iran will be judged non­com­pli­ant af­ter the next cer­ti­fi­ca­tion dead­line in Oc­to­ber.

Mr. Tiller­son told re­porters at the State De­part­ment on Tues­day that such a judg­ment would have mo­men­tous con­se­quences. Mr. Tiller­son and oth­ers have ar­gued that the U.S. would have more lever­age to pres­sure Iran if it re­mains part of the agree­ment.

“Do we want to tear it up and walk away?” Mr. Tiller­son said. “Do we want to make the point to Iran that we ex­pect you to get back in line with the spirit of the agree­ment and we’re go­ing to stay here and hold you ac­count­able to it? I think there are a lot of al­ter­na­tive means with which we use the agree­ment to ad­vance our poli­cies and the re­la­tion­ship with Iran.”

In­ter­nal de­bate over the mat­ter, ac­cord­ing to one of the sources who spoke with The Times, is play­ing out be­tween Joel Ray­burn, Mr. Trump’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity

Coun­cil di­rec­tor on Iraq, Iran, Le­banon and Syria; Christo­pher Ford, the NSC’s se­nior di­rec­tor for weapons of mass de­struc­tion and coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion; and oth­ers, in­clud­ing Mr. Tiller­son, White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non and White House aide Jared Kush­ner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law.

Some say Mr. Trump’s ul­ti­mate goal is to get Iran to kill the deal. Of­fi­cials in Tehran re­acted an­grily to a sanc­tions bill that Mr. Trump signed Wed­nes­day — which also in­cluded more eco­nomic re­stric­tions for Rus­sia and North Korea — but ap­peared not ready to take the bait.

“The main goal of Amer­ica in ap­prov­ing these sanc­tions against Iran is to de­stroy the nu­clear deal, and we will show a very in­tel­li­gent re­ac­tion to this ac­tion,” Deputy For­eign Min­is­ter Ab­bas Araghchi said in an in­ter­view with state TV, ac­cord­ing to the ISNA news agency. “We are def­i­nitely not go­ing to act in a way that get us en­tan­gled in the pol­i­tics of the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment and Trump.”

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani, who made the nu­clear deal a cen­ter­piece of his suc­cess­ful re-elec­tion cam­paign this year, will be sworn in Thursday for a sec­ond four-year term.

Good cop/bad cop

Mark Dubowitz, an an­a­lyst on Iran

pol­icy at the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies in Washington, said Wed­nes­day that it would be an over­state­ment to say Mr. Tiller­son and Mr. Trump are in dis­agree­ment on the is­sue.

He said the two men ap­pear to be tac­itly en­gaged in a kind of “good cop/ bad cop” pos­tur­ing, with Mr. Trump threat­en­ing to take hard ac­tion by trash­ing the nu­clear deal and Mr. Tiller­son push­ing the more diplo­matic mes­sage that the ad­min­is­tra­tion might be will­ing to work with Iran even if it is de­clared out of com­pli­ance in Oc­to­ber.

“This is far bet­ter than we had in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, when the nu­clear deal was ne­go­ti­ated and we had thenSec­re­tary of State John Kerry run­ning around as the good cop, while Pres­i­dent Obama was in the back­ground as the even nicer cop, and it re­sulted in giv­ing away too much,” Mr. Dubowitz said.

There is no ques­tion, he said, that Mr. Trump should pub­licly call out Tehran for clearly vi­o­lat­ing the agree­ment.

“They’ve tested more ad­vanced cen­trifuges that could be used to more quickly and more covertly en­rich ura­nium for use in a nu­clear weapon than they are per­mit­ted by the deal,” he said. “They have ex­ceeded their heavy-wa­ter caps, which al­lows them to pro­duce the es­sen­tial el­e­ment for a plu­to­nium nu­clear

bomb, they have ex­ceeded their ura­nium en­rich­ment caps.”

Mr. Dubowitz also pointed to in­tel­li­gence re­ports that Tehran has il­lic­itly sought to pro­cure nu­clear and mis­sile tech­nol­ogy from Ger­many.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion, he said, should take the tech­ni­cal step in Oc­to­ber of stat­ing that Iran has not met the statu­tory cri­te­ria in the leg­is­la­tion, which re­quires cer­ti­fi­ca­tion every 90 days, that they are in com­pli­ance with the terms of the nu­clear deal. Such a dec­la­ra­tion would nei­ther re­sult in an im­me­di­ate “snap back” of eco­nomic sanc­tions against Iran nor sig­nal that Washington was to­tally pulling out of the agree­ment, but would be a nec­es­sary step to­ward rene­go­ti­at­ing cer­tain as­pects to it.

What it would do, he said, is “un­der­mine Iran’s nar­ra­tive of nu­clear in­no­cence” in a way that hands the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion lever­age to push for a “fol­low-on agree­ment that ad­dresses fa­tal flaws in the orig­i­nal ac­cord.”

But would Euro­pean al­lies go along with that? Mr. Dubowitz says yes.

“They’ll be hap­pier to choose a fol­lowon agree­ment than the end of this agree­ment,” he said. “If you give the Euro­peans a choice be­tween ac­cess to a $400 bil­lion Ira­nian mar­ket and $19 tril­lion U.S. mar­ket, they’re go­ing to choose the U.S.”

But deal sup­port­ers say the ad­min­is­tra­tion should tread care­fully in its pos­tur­ing.

“The nu­clear deal suc­ceeded in both tak­ing an Ira­nian path to a nu­clear bomb as well as war with Iran off the ta­ble,” said Trita Parsi, au­thor of “Los­ing an En­emy,” a book about the diplo­macy be­hind the Iran nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“By scut­tling the deal, re­gard­less of how Trump does it, both of these dis­as­ters will be put back on the ta­ble,” Mr. Parsi told The Times.

“Trump com­plains that the deal has not changed Iran into a good neigh­bor, in his view,” he said. “The Ira­ni­ans have the same com­plaint. The deal has not made the United States give less po­lit­i­cal cover and sup­port for the desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties of Saudi Ara­bia, for in­stance. On the con­trary, Trump is sell­ing more arms to the Saudis than ever be­fore.”

But Mr. Trump, in an in­ter­view with The Wall Street Jour­nal last month, sounded like a man who had made up his mind. “I think [Iran] will be non­com­pli­ant” when the next re­view comes around, he told the news­pa­per.

“Look, I have a lot of re­spect for [Mr. Tiller­son] and his peo­ple, good re­la­tion­ship,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s eas­ier to say they com­ply. It’s a lot eas­ier. But it’s the wrong thing. They don’t com­ply.”

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