By Nick Wadhams and Kambiz Foroohar
The Trump administration laid out its rationale for possibly walking away from a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, declaring that the Islamic Republic’s ballistic-missile program violates UN resolutions and threatens to make the country “the next North Korea.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the agreement reached during the Obama administration is flawed and doesn’t take into account Iran’s role in sponsoring terrorism and efforts to improve its missile technology. President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the agreement as the “worst deal ever.”
“Missile technology cannot be separated from the pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” Haley said at an event in Washington on Tuesday. “If we continue to not look at the Iranian activity, we will be dealing with the next North Korea.”
Congress requires the president to certify every 90 days whether Iran remains in compliance with the accord and that the agreement remains in the U.S. national security interest. Haley suggested Trump could both say Iran isn’t meeting its obligations and remain in the nuclear treaty, known as JPCOA.
“This is about U.S. national security, not European national security,” Haley said.
The comments come about six weeks before Trump has to make his third determination this year about Iran’s compliance. After certifying the deal in July, Trump said the Islamic Republic wasn’t living up to the spirit of the pact and the administration imposed new sanctions for what it called Iran’s persistent efforts to destabilize the Middle East.
“Iran’s leaders want to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage to its bad behavior,” Haley said. “You can look at any place in the Middle East where there are problems and there are Iranian tentacles there.”
While Trump and key aides have frequently criticized the agreement, the administration has repeatedly said it’s waiting for the results of an Iran policy review that’s now underway and so far hasn’t been willing to go against the other countries, including Germany and France, that helped forge the accord and strongly support it. Companies including Total SA and Boeing Co. have begun signing major deals with Iranian companies as the country’s market reopens.
The U.S. is counting on European nations to change their views on the accord, said one of the agreement’s chief critics.
“President Trump’s credible threat that he will walk away from a deal he despises and believes is not in the vital national security interest of the U.S. is already motivating the Europeans to discuss options to fix the deal,” said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington. “Another certification especially when he made it clear last time that he wouldn’t certify again would undermine that credible threat.”
Haley pointedly declined to say whether the U.S. would back out of the nuclear agreement. What was more important, she said, was Iran’s continued suspicious activity and its support of terror. The U.S. shouldn’t ignore Iran’s other actions just to keep the nuclear deal alive, she said.
“There are hundreds of undeclared sites that have suspicious activity that they haven’t looked at,” Haley said of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with judging whether Iran is complying with the deal.
Haley visited the IAEA’s headquarters in Vienna last month and while she praised the organization’s work, she emphasized her concerns that “IAEA reports can only be as good as the access Iran grants to any facility the IAEA suspects of having a nuclear role,” according to a State Department email at the time.