Breaking with Trump pledge to 'tear up accord', administration to seek 'stricter interpretation' in future
The Donald Trump administration late Monday re-certified Iran is in compliance with a landmark nuclear accord brokered with international powers, but said Tehran is violating the agreement's "spirit".
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson formally signed off on the matter in accordance with a 90-day requirement, but a senior administration official told reporters on condition of anonymity that the U.S. would seek a "stricter interpretation" of the deal going forward.
"Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA]", the official contended, echoing Trump's earlier comments. "Iran remains one of the most dangerous threats to U.S. interests and to regional stability".
The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The Trump administration last certified Iran is acting in line with the agreement in April.
But the official pointed to Iran's "malign activities" he said "extend well beyond the nuclear realm", later adding that the "existing restrictions under the JCPOA were, in our view, inadequately enforced".
"We aim to help fix that as well," he said. "We will certainly take every opportunity we can to identify areas of ambiguity, to resist Iranian attempts to push the envelope of what they are doing under the deal. They have a well-established strategy of trying to get away with as much as they are allowed to get away with."
The Iran deal provided Tehran with relief from biting international economic sanctions in exchange for the imposition of a robust inspections regime on its nuclear program.
While campaigning, Trump promised to "tear up" the agreement but has been hit with the likely diplomatic repercussions of doing so after he assumed office in January.
A unilateral U.S. pullout from the agreement would likely vex close European allies who lifted their economic sanctions alongside the U.S. in line with the agreement's requirement.
Under his predecessor, President Barack Obama, the former administration brokered the agreement with China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and Germany -- collectively known as the P5+1 -- and the European Union in 2015.
It was implemented in January 2016.