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Trump moves closer to decertifying Iran nuclear deal

Brian Bennett and Tracy Wilkinson, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump appears on track to decertify the Iran nuclear deal next week, a decision that will open an unpredictable debate in Congress and could lead to an unraveling of the landmark agreement.

Trump is planning to announce next week that the Iran deal is not in the U.S. national security interest, and that additional sanctions should be imposed on Tehran to prevent it from restarting its nuclear program at some point in the future, according to a person briefed by the White House who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Aides are drafting a harsh speech that Trump is tentatively planning to deliver on Wednesday or Thursday in which he will explain his decision, according to people briefed on the president's thinking.

Under a U.S. law, the White House faces an Oct. 15 deadline to certify to Congress whether Iran is in compliance with the accord, and whether the agreement remains in the U.S. national security interest.

The law was passed in 2015 when the Obama administration and five other major powers were completing a deal with Iran that required it to destroy or disable its nuclear infrastructure in exchange for easing of international sanctions. The U.N. Security Council has backed the accord.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, has repeatedly determined that Tehran is meeting its obligations under the deal, and U.S. intelligence agencies have reached the same conclusion.

That leaves national security, a much vaguer standard, as the apparent basis for Trump's decision on decertification.

National security advisers close to Trump joke that he should give the speech in front of the shuttered Iranian Embassy in Washington. Diplomatic relations were severed after Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy and seized scores of hostages in Tehran during the country's revolution in 1979.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the Iran deal as one-sided and has threatened to scrap it. He ordered an interagency review of U.S. policy toward Iran soon after he took office.

He and other critics insist that Tehran's support for militant groups in Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon, its ballistic missile program and other destabilizing actions should be restricted.

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