President Donald Trump looks set to decertify the Iran nuclear deal — a sign of his antipathy towards it under the US legislation — but he will not withdraw from the landmark accord or immediately re-impose sanctions, according to US officials and outside advisers to the administration.
- Mr Trump is expected to announce additional economic sanctions against Iran
- He has previously called the pact “the worst deal ever negotiated”
- The deal saw Iran limit its nuclear program in exchange for fewer economic sanctions
The move to decertify the deal means he is keeping the agreement alive — for now.
Under the landmark pact made in 2015, Iran agreed to limit its disputed nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions. The deal was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran.
Mr Trump, who has called the pact an “embarrassment” and “the worst deal ever negotiated”, wants to ramp up pressure on Tehran, and especially its elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US sees as responsible for spreading instability in the region.
In a speech from the White House, the President is expected to outline specific faults he finds in the pact, but will also focus on an array of Iran’s troubling non-nuclear activities, four officials and advisers said.
Those include Tehran’s ballistic missile program, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and other groups that destabilise the region, including in Yemen.
There will be additional economic sanctions against it, and a variety of other steps, to try to constrain Iran’s influence.
“The reckless behaviour of the Iranian regime, and the IRGC in particular, poses one of the most dangerous threats to the interests of the United States and to regional stability,” the White House said in a statement released ahead of the speech.
The statement, which did not reveal Mr Trump’s decision, denounced the Obama administration for its “myopic focus on Iran’s nuclear program to the exclusion of the regime’s many other malign activities” and said the same “mistakes” would not be repeated.
The Trump administration’s Iran policy will address the totality of these threats from and malign activities by the Government of Iran and will seek to bring about a change in the Iranian’s regime’s behaviour,” it said.
Revolutionary Guard in the firing line
Under US law, Mr Trump faces a Sunday deadline to notify Congress whether Iran is complying with the accord that was negotiated over 18 months by the Obama administration and determine if it remains a national security priority.
The officials and advisers, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly preview the speech, said the President will not call for a re-imposition of nuclear sanctions on Tehran.
Mr Trump is expected to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organisation. (Reuters: Morteza Nikoubazl, file)
He will instead urge lawmakers to codify tough new requirements for Tehran to continue to benefit from the sanctions relief that it won in exchange for curbing its atomic program.
He will announce his long-anticipated intent to impose sanctions on portions of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps by designating them terrorist organisations under an existing executive order, according to the officials and advisers.
In his speech, Mr Trump will ask Congress to amend or replace legislation that currently requires him to certify Iranian compliance every 90 days.
Officials have said that Mr Trump hates the requirement more than the nuclear deal itself because it forces him to take a position every three months on what he has repeatedly denounced as the worst deal in American history.
That frequency has also irritated aides who have complained that they are spending inordinate amounts of time on certification at the expense of other issues.
Deal changes worry US allies
The prospect of Washington reneging on the deal had worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it, especially as the world grapples with North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development.
American allies, who have pressed the White House to remain in the nuclear accord, will be closely watching the President’s address.
Mr Trump wants to impress on the European parties to the accord — Germany, France and Britain — the importance of fixing what he sees as flaws in the nuclear accord and addressing malign behaviour not covered in the agreement.
The Europeans, along with the other parties, Iran, Russia and China, have ruled out reopening the deal.
But some, notably France, have signalled a willingness to tackle unresolved issues in supplementary negotiations.
Among those issues are the expiration of several restrictions on advanced nuclear activity under so-called “sunset clauses” that will allow Iran to begin ramping up its enrichment capabilities after 10 years, the end of an arms embargo and the eventual easing of demands for a halt to its missile program.
In the speech, Trump hopes to “recruit” the Europeans into joining his broad strategy, particularly by punishing the Revolutionary Guard, which he and his national security team believe is fomenting instability, violence and extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond, according to one official.