Trump says Iran sticking to nuclear deal terms, but undermining its spirit

Trump says Iran sticking to nuclear deal terms, but undermining its spirit
The White House has admitted Tehran is in compliance with the terms of the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement – which President Trump called the “worst deal ever” – but claimed Iran is still undermining the intent of the accord and poses a threat to the region.

The decision to certify that Iran is adhering to the nuclear deal came on Monday evening after extensive discussions with President Donald Trump’s national security team and the State Department, US media reported.

The certification of Iran’s compliance must be pitched to Congress every 90 days. This is the second time the Trump administration has acknowledged Iran’s compliance, and the president reportedly told his aides he does not intend to renew the certification indefinitely, according to the New York Times

“I think you all know that the president has made very clear that he thought this was a bad deal – a bad deal for the United States,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told a press briefing. He chose not to elaborate on the issue until the State Department’s full statement regarding the Iran deal.

Spicer explained Trump recertified the deal “because he had the luxury of having an entire team here, both from State [Department], DOD, [National Security Council], to review it.” 

However, even despite Monday’s certification, senior administration officials bashed the nuclear deal, signaling that its future remains in question.

Although the 2015 agreement only covers Iran's nuclear program, administration officials accused Tehran of being “unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the deal because of its interference in neighboring countries, its human rights record and other activities, Reuters reported. 

A senior administration official said the White House is willing to “address the totality of Iran's malign behavior” and look at ways to more strictly enforce the nuclear deal.

“We're in a period where we’re going to be working with our allies to explore options for addressing the [agreement’s] flaws, which there are many,” the official said.

Meanwhile, top Iranian officials said they respect the deal and are determined to honor it, but receive confusing signs from Washington.

"We receive contradictory signals," said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as cited by AFP. "It's very clear that Iran is serious about the nuclear deal,” he added.

Zarif also said there were no discussions between him and Tillerson on the issue. "It doesn't mean there can't be. The possibilities for engagement... have always been open," he noted.

During his presidential campaign, Trump has consistently criticized the landmark agreement, calling it “the worst deal ever,” but had produced conflicting statement on whether the US should pull out from it or keep it in place under certain conditions. 

Trump also argued the deal brokered by former President Barack Obama was a dangerous concession to Tehran, but half a year into his tenure he has not suspended it, only dubbing Iran “the main sponsor of terrorism.”

The White House last certified Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal in April. The announcement came alongside a statement by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who accused Iran of funding terrorist groupings, violating human rights and nurturing plans for a ballistic missile program. 

The nuclear deal was agreed in Vienna in July 2015 after long-lasting negotiations initiated by five major world powers, including China, France, Germany, Russia, the US and Britain. Under its provisions, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief worth billions of dollars.