President Donald Trump (AP/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
Donald Trump

While abiding by the technical aspects of the nuclear deal, Iran is violating its “spirit,” Trump charged. 

Iran is failing to fulfill the “spirit” of its nuclear deal with world powers, President Donald Trump has declared, setting an ominous tone for his forthcoming decision about whether to pull the US out of the landmark agreement.

As he often had during the president campaign, Trump ripped into the deal struck by Iran, the US and other world powers in 2015 and said “it shouldn’t have been signed.” Yet he pointedly stopped short of clearly stating whether or not the US would stay in.

“They are not living up to the spirit of the agreement, I can tell you that,” Trump stated in a news conference alongside Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni on Thursday, though he did not mention any specific violations.

Earlier this week, the administration certified to Congress than Iran was complying — at least technically — with the terms of the deal, clearing the way for Iran to continue enjoying sanctions relief in the near term.

On Iran, Trump and his top officials have been walking a narrow line as they seek to show an aggressive stance. While disparaging the nuclear deal and accusing Iran of fomenting violence and terrorism throughout the Middle East, Trump has avoided committing to abandoning the agreement.

He said of Iran, “I think they are doing a tremendous disservice to an agreement that was signed.”

Under the deal, brokered during the Obama administration, Iran agreed to roll back key aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for relief from certain economic sanctions.

Critics have said it’s unfathomable that the US would grant sanctions relief to Tehran even as Tehran continues testing ballistic missiles, violating human rights and supporting terror groups elsewhere in the Middle East.

By design, the nuclear deal does not address those Western grievances, meaning that Iran can be in compliance even as it violates United Nations resolutions and remains a US-designated state sponsor of terrorism. The US has continued to punish Tehran for those activities with non-nuclear sanctions that also fall outside the purview of the deal.

Trump hasn’t given a timeline for when his administration’s review of Iran policy — including whether to stick with the deal — will be complete. But the US must decide next month whether to renew a waiver so that Iran can continue receiving sanctions relief.

Appearing in Israel Friday at a news conference with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was asked about Iran and the administration’s position on the nuclear agreement.

He said that Iranians “appear to be living up to their part of the agreement” and that “it continues to be in force.”

“That in no way mitigates against or excuses the other Iranian activities in the region including the war in Yemen that grinds on and what they’re doing in Syria” to keep President Bashar Assad in power,” he said. Mattis added, “But the agreement on nuclear issues still stands and that’s all I can say about it.”

By: AP