President Donald Trump accused Iran on Thursday of failing to abide by the “spirit” of a landmark 2015 deal designed to allow the nation to pursue a nuclear energy and research program but prevent it from producing a nuclear weapon.
“They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement,” Trump said. “I can tell you that. And we’re analyzing it very, very carefully and we’ll have something to say about it in the not-too-distant future.”
Trump’s criticism came two days after the U.S. certified that Iran was complying with the deal, which was negotiated during President Barack Obama’s presidency. Trump’s administration has launched a 90-day review of the agreement with Iran to determine whether the United States will continue to abide by it.
Under the 2015 deal struck between Iran and the U.S. and five other nations, Iran’s nuclear program would be reduced and closely monitored in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
“As far as Iran is concerned, I think they are doing a tremendous disservice to an agreement that was signed,” Trump said. “It was a terrible agreement. It shouldn’t have been signed. It shouldn’t have been negotiated the way it was negotiated. I’m all for agreements, but that was a bad one, as bad as I’ve ever seen negotiated.”
Trump spoke about Iran during a wide-ranging news conference at the White House alongside Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
Obama considered the nuclear agreement one of his most important foreign-policy achievements, saying it would end the threat that Iran would have a nuclear weapon.
From Venice to Florence, from Verdi to Pavarotti — a friend of mine, great friend of mine — these bonds of history and culture have only grown stronger as our two nations have become close partners, dear friends and very vital allies.
President Donald Trump, speaking of Italy
During his campaign, Trump vowed to rip up the nuclear pact or negotiate a better one, however, calling it “a disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated,” even warning that it would lead to a “nuclear holocaust.”
“My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” Trump said in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March 2016. Since taking office he has not indicated whether and how he will do so. His administration did, however, try to bar Iranians from visiting or immigrating to the U.S. through a visa ban targeting six majority-Muslim countries.
Trump’s comments came a day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Iran of “alarming ongoing provocations” that he said undermined U.S. interests in the region, mentioning Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
“A comprehensive Iran policy requires we address all of the threats posed by Iran,” Tillerson said Wednesday. “The evidence is clear: Iran’s provocative actions threaten the United States, the region and the world.”
Tillerson expressed concerns about Tehran’s continued support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and its hostility toward Israel.
In a letter notifying Congress of the 90-day interagency review, Tillerson said the White House was looking into whether the U.S. should break with the deal due to Iran’s continued support of terrorism. “Notwithstanding (the compliance), Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” he said in the letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.
Tillerson said that the review, which will be led by the National Security Council, will evaluate whether suspending sanctions related to the nuclear deal was “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis matched Tillerson’s tough words while on a visit to Saudi Arabia this week, pledging that the U.S. would “reinforce Saudi Arabia’s resistance to Iran’s mischief.”
“Everywhere you look, if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis told reporters. “So right now what we are seeing is the nations in the region and others elsewhere trying to checkmate Iran and the amount of disruption, the amount of instability they can cause.”