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Trump won’t certify the Iran nuclear deal ― and he won't kill it

by Tim Hume
Oct 13 2017, 8:02am

Donald Trump’s new approach to Iran won’t completely abandon the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, according to reports Friday.

Observers have been anxiously awaiting Trump’s speech at the White House at 12:45 p.m. Friday, at which the president will unveil his much anticipated new strategy towards the Islamic republic.

Trump has repeatedly threatened to pull the U.S. out of the deal. But reports Friday claimed his new strategy would focus on efforts to “fix” the accord, rather than scrapping it, with the aim of making it more difficult for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction,” Trump said in a White House statement Thursday, laying out key elements of the strategy.

Reuters reported that Trump was expected not to certify Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal, which would kick the issue over to Congress to decide how to respond. According to the New York Times, the White House wants Congress to set up “trigger points,” with new sanctions slapped on Iran if it transgressed.

Reuters also reported that Republican Senators Bob Corker and Tom Cotton had come up with proposed laws to address the deal’s shortcomings, whereby Iran would be hit with sanctions if it reached the point where it could develop a nuclear weapon in less than a year.

Trump’s new approach has been met with relief by European diplomats, who have been lobbying their American counterparts not to pull out of the deal, the Guardian reported Friday.

“Of all the places it could have been on the spectrum, this is very much at the better end,” one European official told the newspaper.

Trump has called the accord “the worst deal ever,” although his own Defense Secretary James Mattis said earlier this month it was not in the national interest to withdraw.

Beyond the terms of the deal, the new Iran policy would also involve a more aggressive approach to countering Tehran’s ballistic missile development program, and curbing its support for militant groups throughout the region, according to a White House statement.

This could involve economic sanctions on individuals and entities associated with Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which supports groups such as Hezbollah.

“We will work to deny the Iranian regime – and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – funding for its malign activities, and oppose IRGC activities that extort the wealth of the Iranian people,” said a White House statement. “We will counter threats to the United States and our allies from ballistic missiles and other asymmetric weapons.”

Under the 2015 nuclear deal, signed between Iran and six leading world powers, Tehran agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for the partial lifting of sanctions.