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US Lawmakers, European Nations Scramble to Save Iran Deal From Trump

12 October 2017, 09:57 | Taylor George

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani delivers a speech during the opening session of the new Parliament in Tehran in 2016. Atta Kenare AFP Getty Images

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani delivers a speech during the opening session of the new Parliament in Tehran in 2016

There was always the chance he could still have a last-minute change of heart and certify Iran's compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an "embarrassment" and the "worst deal ever negotiated".

"What Trump is doing is opening a very unnecessary "Pandora's box" of troubles at a time when he is unable to competently handle the crisis with North Korea's nuclear program", said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, which supports the Iran deal.

Officials familiar with the internal deliberations as well as informed sources outside the administration say they expect Trump to tell lawmakers that the Iran deal is not in the USA national security interest despite Iran's technical compliance.

President Donald Trump's decision on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could come on Friday, and experts say the "writing is on the wall" that the administration won't recertify the landmark agreement and he likely will turn his attention to getting European support on fixing it.

European diplomats, anticipating Trump's move, have already been meeting with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to take lawmakers' temperatures and lobby them on the merits of the agreement. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would demand that the intelligence community produce judgments on a wide range of Iranian behavior that is not covered by the nuclear deal, including ballistic missile testing and development and threats to Israel and the Mideast more broadly.

Notably, the committee's top Republican, Rep. Ed Royce, said the USA should adhere to the deal.

"As flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it", Representative Ed Royce said at a hearing.

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Instead, these officials said Trump is more inclined to throw the matter to Congress and push legislators to amend the law that requires the president to certify Iran's compliance every 90 days. The International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran is complying with the agreement.

Two other USA officials, who also requested anonymity, said Trump's bellicose rhetoric on a number of fronts is troubling both many of his own aides and some of America's closest allies, a few of whom have asked U.S. officials privately if Trump's real objective is attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.

Officials have also said there could be room to open a new negotiation for what happens once some of the core terms of the deal begin expiring in 2025, although there is no reason to believe Iran would be ready to enter in such a negotiation.

A decision by Trump to decertify the deal would leave it at grave risk, with the US Congress having 60 days to decide whether to re-impose specific sanctions on Tehran that were lifted because of the diplomatic pact.

Top officials from Trump's national security team, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, have also confirmed that Iran has been technically compliant.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that Iran "is not in material breach of the agreement". Among them were Reps.

If Iran were to begin reinstalling its centrifuges and rebuilding its plutonium reactors, they would be able to begin rapidly expanding toward nuclear capability within a few years, said Jake Sullivan, a former top foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton who worked on negotiating the original deal in 2015. "We thought it was the wrong decision", Cardin told reporters recently. We encourage United States to assess se results in security context.



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