The Trump Administration on Monday announced its intention to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement reached two years ago under the Obama Administration, but said Iran is “in default of the spirit” of the accord.
A senior administration told reporters that the administration will certify to Congress that Iran is meeting the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but stressed that it plans to take a broader approach to combat Iran’s other “malign activities,” including additional sanction for Iran’s actions outside the scope of the nuclear deal.
“The secretary of State is in the process as we speak of certifying to the Congress that the conditions that are laid out in the [Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act] have been met based on information available to the United States,” the official said.
“However, the secretary of State and the president intend to emphasize that Iran remains one of the most dangerous threats to U.S. interests and to regional stability and to highlight the range of malign activities by Iran that extend well beyond the nuclear realm,” the official added.
The deal arranged under President Obama and maligned by candidate Trump, requires the administration to certify compliance to Congress. The announcement comes on the day of a congressional deadline stipulating that the administration must verify that Iran is meeting the provisions of the nuclear accord. Iran, in exchange for adhering to the agreement negotiated in 2015 between itself, the United States, and international powers, gets sanctions relief.
The “malign activities” outside the realm of the nuclear agreement include Iran’s support for terrorism, human rights abuses, backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and hostility to Israel, the official said.
“The president and the secretary of State judge that these Iranian activities severely undermine the intent of the JCPOA which was to contribute to regional and international peace and security,” the official said.
“And as a result, the president, secretary of State, and the entire administration judge that Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit of the JCPOA.”
During the call, officials emphasized that the previous administration took a “narrow approach” that overlooked Iran’s “broader behavior.”
“In our view, the previous administration allowed the nuclear agreement to be the tail that wagged the Iran policy dog,” another senior administration official on the call said.
“We are determined not to repeat that mistake and we are approaching all this as part of an integrated strategy to holding Iran accountable for its misdeeds in all respects and trying to contain the threats that Iran presents to our interest and those of our allies and friends in the region.”
Moving forward, the Trump administration intends to engage a strategy that will “address the totality of Iran’s malign behavior and not narrowly focus” solely on the nuclear accord.
The strategy includes new sanctions aimed at holding Iran responsible for its “misbehavior in the region in a bunch of fronts,” according to one of the officials.
“They are part of an ongoing campaign to hold Iran accountable for its misbehavior in ways that don’t actually touch the deal,” the official added, referring to Iran’s missile program and provocations in Middle Eastern waterways.
The Senate in June passed a bill with sanctions targeting Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, human rights violations, and weapons transfers.
The certification announcement comes as the Trump administration seeks to take a hard-line stance against Iran following the rhetoric the president espoused during his quest for the White House when he vowed to tear up the nuclear agreement on day one of his tenure and repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for negotiating the accord.