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Donald Trump set to refuse to uphold Iran nuclear deal

  • Fri, 13 Oct 2017 20:43

President Donald Trump is expected to refuse to uphold a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran on Friday, a move US allies warn will escalate global nuclear tensions already heightened by the crisis over North Korea.

Mr Trump, who has railed against the pact as the “worst ever” signed by the US, will announce his Iran strategy on Friday following a contentious nine-month review that has unsettled European signatories to the seven-party deal.

He is expected to decertify the deal to Congress, a move that would not put the US in violation of the deal itself but which would trigger a 60-day period during which Congress can vote to snap back nuclear sanctions under expedited procedures.

That would put the US in violation of the deal and be likely to lead to its collapse.

The seven-country agreement, the signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration, secured limits on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for limited sanctions relief. It was endorsed into law by the UN Security Council.

The president’s repeated threats to scrap the deal have sparked an aggressive lobbying campaign by the US’s three most important European allies — the UK, France and Germany — to convince the White House to abide by the agreement as it seeks talks with North Korea over its own nuclear ambitions.

“We will stand by this deal — it’s a good and fair deal,” David O’Sullivan, EU ambassador to the US who has been lobbying Congress and the administration against tearing up the deal, said this week.

Although most US allies and many within Mr Trump’s own administration have maintained that Iran is in technical compliance with the deal, the White House has complained that it fails to deal with other non-nuclear issues, such as Iran’s missile programme, its intervention in the Arab conflict and support for Shia militant groups such as Hizbollah, the Lebanese movement.

Mr Trump’s foreign policy team has spent months crafting options that respond to Mr Trump’s frustration at having to certify the agreement he abhors every 90 days but also increase overall pressure on Iran and keep the deal alive.

Rather than reimpose nuclear sanctions, leading Senate Republicans will try to steer a set of legislative amendments in co-ordination with the administration. Two leading Iran hawks in the Senate, Bob Corker and Tom Cotton, have developed a legislative framework that proposes to amend existing domestic legislation known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which Mr Corker himself spearheaded in 2015.

The plan would address so-called sunset provisions, in which some restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme peter out after 2025, and would automatically re-impose nuclear sanctions if Iran contravenes new criteria, including on its ballistic missile programme.

The US wants European allies to push for a stricter interpretation of the existing deal, citing better inspection access to research sites.

Mr Trump also has until the end of the month to announce new sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for “support of terrorist activities in the region” in line with a law initiated by Congress earlier this year that requires Mr Trump to sanction the group for terrorist activity.

Iran president Hassan Rouhani said last month that Iran would never renegotiate the existing deal, but could be open to talking to allies about other issues. If the deal collapses, Iran would be free to pursue its nuclear programme unfettered.

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