By Nick Wadhams
September 15, 2017
Iran is “clearly in default” of expectations under its 2015 nuclear deal, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, highlighting a rift with European allies and signaling the Trump administration may rule next month that the country isn’t complying with the accord.
Tillerson said the U.S. still hasn’t made a decision about Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as it’s required to do every 90 days. While international inspectors have found Iran is meeting requirements to limit its nuclear program, Tillerson said Thursday in London that it’s violating aspirational language in the deal’s preface about regional peace and security. He cited its ballistic-missile program and its support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
“In our view, Iran is clearly in default of these expectations of the JCPOA,” Tillerson said at a briefing alongside British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Iran’s actions are “threatening the security of those in the region as well as the United States itself,” he said.
The remarks drew a swift response from Johnson, who has said repeatedly that the deal is working and must be adhered to. He said the current effort to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program showed the need for agreements like the 2015 Iran deal.
“We in the U.K. want to keep that alive, and that’s certainly a point that we’ve been making to Rex and others in the administration,” Johnson said.
Zarif Weighs In
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also weighed in, saying on Twitter, “The #JCPOA is not (re)negotiable. A ‘better’ deal is pure fantasy. About time for U.S. to stop spinning and begin complying, just like Iran.”
The U.S. still maintains numerous sanctions against Iran over its ballistic-missile program and as a state sponsor of terrorism. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed new restrictions on 11 people and entities for supporting Iranian actions, including cyberattacks against U.S. financial institutions.
“Treasury will continue to take strong actions to counter Iran’s provocations,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
President Donald Trump has until Oct. 15 to tell Congress whether Iran is complying with the deal it reached with the U.S. and five other world powers. Tillerson and other administration officials have said the agreement is flawed because it doesn’t account for Iran’s other malign actions and because many of its restrictions on uranium enrichment and missile technology expire in the years to come.
“We are not going to stand for what they’re doing to this country,” Trump told reporters traveling on Air Force One on Thursday “They have violated so many different elements, but they’ve also violated the spirit of that deal. You’ll see what we’ll be doing in October.”
In an initial step on Thursday, Trump decided to continue waiving U.S. sanctions against Iran under the agreement, as he’s required to do every 120 days. An administration official, speaking to reporters on conditions of anonymity, called the move a “holding action” while the administration conducts its broader review.
U.S. diplomats and Pentagon officials have approached European officials, including from the U.K., in recent weeks to see if they would join in demanding an extension to limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment that are due to expire in 2025 and 2030, according to people familiar with the deliberations.
French and U.K officials have said they would be willing to discuss those ideas at some point but echo Johnson’s remarks that the deal is working and should remain in place.