Trump orders review of Iran nuclear deal; Tillerson says Iran complying

Trump orders review of Iran nuclear deal; Tillerson says Iran complying

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addresses colleagues and their families at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on April 11. (U.S. State Department)

This article has been updated. April 19, 2017. 12:47 PM EDT.

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration said Tuesday that it is launching an interagency review to determine if continuing to lift economic sanctions off Iran as part of the Iran nuclear deal is in the security interest of the U.S.

In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote that while Iran has been compliant with the 2015 agreement to limit its nuclear program, the administration is concerned about Iran’s role as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The letter marked the first notice to Congress from the Trump administration regarding Iran’s compliance with the agreement, as is required every 90 days under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods,” Tillerson wrote. “President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

Tillerson did not say how long the review would take. He said the National Security Council will lead the process, and at the end of it the “administration looks forward to working with Congress on this issue.”

While campaigning Trump often criticized the deal, which was negotiated between six nations and Iran, calling it “the worst deal ever negotiated.” He pledged to “rip it up” if elected, a threat that was met with resistance from both proponents and opponents of the deal, and later said he would renegotiate it.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday that Trump has not decided whether he intends to pull out of the deal or not, and that this review will help shape his opinion. Spicer said that the U.S. might impose additional sanctions against Iran following the review, while cognizant of the potential fallout sanctions could cause.

The agreement exchanged limits on Iran’s nuclear program to thwart its ability to create a nuclear weapon with the lifting of crippling international economic and oil sanctions.

U.S. officials have long called Iran the number one state sponsor of terrorism. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during a visit Wednesday to Saudi Arabia, “everywhere you look if there’s trouble in the region, you find Iran.”

Mattis made the comments while discussing the Yemeni civil war, where Iran is backing Houthi rebels in a fight against the ousted government.

In addition to backing the Houthis in the Yemeni civil war, Iran has supported the Syrian government during the conflict in that country, militias fighting ISIS in Iraq — including the Popular Mobilization Forces — and has backed groups such as Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militia.

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