Saturday 21 September 2019

Trump to declare Iran nuclear deal is 'not in America's national security interests'

US president Donald Trump Photo: PA Wire
US president Donald Trump Photo: PA Wire

Matthew Lee

US President Donald Trump plans to deliver a broad and harsh critique of Iran in a speech declaring that the landmark Iran nuclear deal is not in America's national security interests, according to US officials and outside advisers to the administration.

Mr Trump's speech from the White House on Friday will outline specific faults he finds in the 2015 accord 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.

Under US law, Mr Trump faces a Sunday deadline to notify Congress whether Iran is complying with the accord that was painstakingly negotiated over 18 months by the Obama administration and determine if it remains a national security priority.

Although Mr Trump intends to say Iran is living up to the letter of the agreement, he will make the case that the deal is fatally flawed and that its non-nuclear behaviour violates the spirit of the regional stability it was intended to encourage, the officials and advisers said.

The officials and advisers, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly preview the speech, said Trump will not call for a re-imposition of nuclear sanctions on Tehran.

He will 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.

And he will announce his long-anticipated intent to impose sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps by designating it a terrorist organisation under an existing executive order, according to the officials and advisers.

In addition, Mr Trump will ask Congress to amend or replace outright the 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 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.

At the White House, Mr Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, confirmed the president would announce the results of his Iran policy review on Friday but declined to offer any detail.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was calling foreign minister colleagues from the other parties to the deal to brief them on what to expect, the State Department said.

But in a possible preview of Trump's announcement, CIA Director Mike Pompeo blasted Iran during a speech at the University of Texas, calling Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Revolutionary Guard "cudgels of a despotic theocracy."

American allies, who have pressed the White House to remain in the nuclear accord, will be closely watching the president's address.

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.

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