WASHINGTON – The nation’s top uniformed military officer told the Senate body responsible for crafting military legislative policy Tuesday that leaving the Iran nuclear accord while Iran is in compliance would hurt deal making with other countries in the future.
President Donald Trump is considering leaving the deal, which Iran and six world powers agreed to in 2015. The deal exchanged temporary limits on Iran’s nuclear program for the lifting of international sanctions.
The U.N. body responsible for monitoring compliance said Iran has kept to the deal, as have senior U.S. officials. Trump claims Iran is in violation of the “spirit of the deal.”
“It was designed to address, what I would describe as one of the five major threats posed by Iran: the nuclear threat,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “… What the agreement didn’t address was the missile threat, the maritime threat, Iran’s support for proxies, and Iran’s support for proxies and the cyber activity that they have conducted.”
Dunford said he sees a physical manifestation of Iran’s malign influence in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) asked Dunford if pulling out of the nuclear accord would have “an effect on the ability to negotiate or to come to some non-kinetic solution in Korea.”
“It makes sense to me that our holding up agreements that we have signed, unless there is a material breech, would have an impact on others’ willingness to sign agreements,” said Dunford, who was before the Senate to testify at his confirmation hearing to be reappointed for another two-year term.
Dunford later told Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that the U.S. should work with the partners who reached the Iran nuclear deal to address the other malign behaviors by Iran. He said the so-called sunset-set clauses, under which some of the deal’s restrictions expire come 2025, need “to be addressed in the near-term.”
The other signatories to the deal — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany — have expressed support for the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, told The New York Times last week that Iran would only renegotiate terms of the deal if it was also given concessions, including that Iran would take back its nuclear fuel stockpile.
Under the deal, Iran could only keep an amount of nuclear fuel too small to create a nuclear weapon.
Under U.S. law, Trump has until Oct. 15 to certify to Congress if Iran is complying with the agreement. If Trump chose not to certify to Congress that the Iran is upholding the deal, Congress could reimpose domestic sanctions removed under the deal, thus derailing it. Congress could choose to not reimpose the sanctions.