Trump discusses Iran deal with military leaders
Trump sat beside his chief of staff, John Kelly, and Defense Secretary James Mattis, both former Marine Corps generals, along with a group of senior US military officials Thursday night, where the president told reporters that "We must not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons."
Iran, he said, has not "lived within the spirit of the deal."
"We will be discussing tonight," he added.
"The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East. That is why we must put an end to Iran's continued aggression and nuclear ambitions," Trump said.
Trump did not comment on whether he would re-certify the Iran deal, but teased reporters by saying: "You'll be hearing about Iran very shortly."
The president's deadline for certification of the Iran deal is October 15. If he chooses to de-certify, the issue of whether the US stays within the international framework goes to Congress.
Trump included Iran in a list of "challenges we should've taken care of a long time ago," which also included North Korea, Afghanistan and the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” Trump said without any clarification after leaving the meeting.
On Tuesday, Mattis seemingly contradicted Trump, saying the US should remain in its nuclear agreement with Iran, which he said has been “compliant” with the deal.
"I believe that they [Iran] fundamentally are [in compliance]. There have been certainly some areas where they were not temporarily in that regard, but overall our intelligence community believes that they have been compliant and the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] also says so," Mattis said during a House of Representatives hearing.
Last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Iran was in "technical compliance" with the deal, but added that the US still finds “significant issues with the agreement."
The US entered into the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), under then-President Barack Obama in 2015. The deal was made along with five other nations to lift punishing economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for scaling back the country’s uranium enrichment program.
During the campaign, Trump called the Iran nuclear deal the “worst deal ever negotiated,” and pledged to “dismantle” it.
If the Trump administration chose to decertify the deal, Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran, which would effectively end the agreement.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Thursday that Trump has made a decision and that he will announce it “at the appropriate time.”
“I think you will see that announced in short order. And that will be a comprehensive strategy with a unified team behind him, supporting that effort,” Sanders said at a press briefing.
Speaking about the Iran deal at the UN General Assembly last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the US to “fix it or nix it.”
“Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability. Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is a suspect, and penalizing Iran for every violation,” Netanyahu said.