Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear deal it struck two years ago, according to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but he warned that Iran remains “a leading state sponsor of terror” and said the administration had ordered a review of whether continued sanctions relief was in the “national security interests of the United States.”
President Donald Trump has dubbed the 2015 landmark agreement “the worst deal ever negotiated.”
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan sent late Tuesday night, Tillerson confirmed that Iran remained compliant with the 2015 deal, but added: “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods.” He added that he was alerting Congress “to an effort directed by the President to evaluate whether continuing to lift sanctions would be in U.S. national security interests.”
The nuclear deal was struck in July 2015 after 18 months of negotiations between the U.S., U.K., China, France and Russia, Germany, and Iran. The deal saw Iran commit to limit its development of nuclear material in return for the lifting of oil and financial sanctions worth billions of dollars.
As part of the so-called “joint comprehensive plan of action” (JCPOA), the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the terms of the deal. Tillerson’s letter to Ryan was sent just hours before the midnight deadline for the first Trump administration update.
Tillerson did not lay out how long the review process would take, but said that it “will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
The U.S. has long accused Iran of supporting terrorism in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen – as well as backing Lebanese group Hezbollah. Last month Secretary of Defense James Mattis called Iran the “world’s biggest sponsor of state terrorism.” In response, the Iranian foreign ministry warned Mattis against making such “unwarranted and malicious accusations against Iran.”
President Hassan Rouhani, who signed the historic nuclear deal in 2015, is under pressure ahead of a presidential election next month – with many accusing him of failing to capitalize on the removal of sanctions as Iran’s economy stagnates.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shocked the country last week when he announced he would be running for office again. A victory for the hardline conservative could influence the sanctions review, given his past fierce criticism of Western governments’ demands against Iran.