US President Donald Trump plans to tell Congress this week that Iran is not complying with the spirit of the 2015 nuclear deal, NBC News has learned.
Trump has until Sunday to notify Congress whether Iran remains in compliance with the accord under which it limited its atomic program in exchange for sanctions relief.
If he declines to certify Iran’s compliance, U.S. congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
Trump is expected to announce his decision on Friday (Oct. 13).
Speaking at the White House on Wednesday, Trump did not discuss specific timing but told reporters: “We will be announcing that very shortly.”
Multiple US administration, congressional and diplomatic sources told NBC News he will refuse to certify the deal, without backing out of it completely.
“A nuclear deal that actually works would be good for everybody. This one has serious flaws,” said Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican sitting on the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs.
According to the sources NBC spoke to, Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran deal is part of a larger strategy to crack down on the country’s missile program and support for “terrorism”.
The White House hopes to convince Congress that Iran is engaging in destabilising activities across the region, from supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to funding and arming Shiite fighters in Iraq and Yemen, and that it should be punished through crippling sanctions.
During his presidential campaign, Trump had called the Iran agreement “a deal at the highest level of incompetence” and repeatedly promised to scrap it.
Now sources say that’s unlikely, and critics expect the president will simply talk tough to satisfy his base.
“This is more of a political maneuver than a strategic decision,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday on MSNBC.
Still, Trump’s decision to decertify faces pushback, even by members of his own administration. Pressed by lawmakers last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis responded “yes” when asked if he thinks the deal is in America’s national security interest.
Last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told NBC News in an interview that decertification is tantamount to withdrawing from the agreement, and will have consequences.
“No one will trust America again,” Rouhani said.