US President Donald Trump yesterday was expected to unveil a more aggressive strategy to check Iran’s growing power, but stop short of withdrawing from a landmark nuclear deal or declaring the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.
During a White House speech yesterday afternoon in Washington, Trump was expected to declare that the 2015 agreement — which curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief — is no longer in the US national interest.
Officials said he would not kill the international accord outright, instead “decertifying” the agreement and leaving US lawmakers to decide its fate.
Trump had repeatedly pledged to overturn one of former US president Barack Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievements, deriding it as “the worst deal” and one agreed to out of “weakness.”
The agreement was signed between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US — at talks coordinated by the EU.
While the deal stalled Iran’s nuclear program and marginally thawed relations between Iran and the US, opponents say it also prevented efforts to challenge Iranian influence in the Middle East.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House to set the stage for Trump’s speech, he was to rail against Iran’s “destabilizing influence” on the Middle East, “particularly its support for terrorism and militants.”
The strategy would seek to shield Israel from Iran’s “unrelenting hostility,” and counter the threat to all US interests and allies from Iran’s proxy forces, ballistic missile development and eventual nuclear ambitions, but the plan as outlined by the fact sheet does not envisage Washington pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action deal.
Indeed, “the deal must be strictly enforced and the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA must fully utilize its inspection authorities,” it said.
Since coming to office, Trump has faced intense lobbying from international allies and his own national security team, who have argued that the deal should remain in place.
In another partial climbdown, Trump is also expected to levy limited sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, rather than invite retaliation by designating it a terrorist organization.
The outcome “probably reflects more some of the divisions and debates within the administration,” former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross said.
Apart from running swaths of Iran’s economy and Iran’s ballistic program, the corps is also accused of guiding bellicose proxies from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Houthi in Yemen, and Shiite militia in Iraq and Syria.
The US Congress must now decide whether to end the nuclear accord by “snapping back” sanctions, which Iran demanded be lifted in exchange for limiting uranium enrichment.
Many lawmakers are waiting to see how Trump presents the choice before deciding whether to keep or torpedo the agreement.
In a statement, leading Republican Senator Marco Rubio described the accord as “fatally flawed” and said he was open to legislation that would “substantially improve America’s ability to counter Iran’s nuclear, terrorism, militancy and regional threats.”
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