U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to call for measures cracking down on what he sees as Iran’s aggression in the Middle East in a widely anticipated speech on October 13, but stop short of pulling the United States out of its nuclear deal with Tehran, U.S. officials told media on October 12.
Officials speaking on condition of anonymity said Trump will say the 2015 deal is not in the United States’ national security interests, and Tehran violates the “spirit” of the deal by continuing to develop ballistic missiles and foment regional conflicts.
But he will not declare that Iran is technically in violation of its obligations to curb nuclear activities under the accord in exchange for sanctions relief, and he will not call for the reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions, the officials said.
Rather, they said Trump will urge Congress to pass legislation setting new, tougher requirements that Tehran must meet to continue to benefit from sanctions relief.
Trump will also ask Congress to amend or replace legislation that requires him every 90 days to certify that Iran is in compliance with the accord, a requirement officials say Trump has long opposed, the officials said.
The long-awaited White House announcement on U.S. policy toward Iran will be made at 12:45 p.m. Washington time (6:45 p.m. Prague time).
The nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia — put limits on Iran’s nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions.
Trump has repeatedly denounced the nuclear deal, which was negotiated and signed under President Barack Obama’s administration, and told the UN General Assembly last month that it is “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
Under U.S. law, the administration is required every 90 days to recertify that Iran is in compliance with the deal and that it remains in the U.S. national interest. The Trump administration has twice in the past certified that Iran is complying.
Media reports say the president this time under an October 15 deadline will announce that he is decertifying Iran while not formally pulling the United States out of the deal.
That move would give the Republican-controlled Congress 60 days to decide whether to reinstate sanctions on Tehran that were suspended under the agreement, a development that would amount to withdrawing from the deal.
While Congress could vote to reimpose sanctions, sentiment among lawmakers has been building recently in favor of keeping the deal in place, even among Republicans and Democrats who originally opposed it when Congress voted on it in 2015, media have reported.
Trump and other administration officials have repeatedly said that while Iran may be complying with actual terms of the pact, it has not acted in the “spirit” of the accord, including by continuing to test-launch ballistic missiles and rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads and by meddling in the affairs of its Middle East neighbors.
Tehran says its nuclear program is intended solely for peaceful purposes, including power generation.
Most Democrats and some Republicans, including members of Trump’s national security team, have expressed concerns about pulling out of the accord, saying it could hurt U.S. credibility on the world stage.
The U.S. officials said that, along with discussing the nuclear accord, Trump in his speech will also point out many complaints regarding Iran’s nonnuclear activities.
Among those will be the country’s ballistic-missile program and support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war, along with Lebanon’s Hizballah movement and other groups allegedly destabilizing the region.