State Dept.: Iran complying with nuclear deal but not 'spirit' of pact

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres

Under terms of the agreement, Iran gained relief from sanctions that had targeted its nuclear energy development program, in exchange for taking a number of steps, including affirming that it would under no circumstances "seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons".

But with the introduction of a Senate bill that would impose new sanctions on Iran aimed at its ballistic missile program, the language of which the nonpartisan Arms Control Association calls "overly broad and imprecise", critics say the USA has not met the deal's terms, endangering the agreement.

Iran is getting "contradictory signals" from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration about the fate of its landmark nuclear deal with world powers, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on July 17.

But senior administration officials made clear that the certification was grudging and said that Trump meant to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran for ongoing "malign activities" in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism.

However, the official said the Trump administration saw Iran as "one of the most unsafe threats to USA interests and to regional stability".

President Donald Trump has in the past bashed the nuclear deal, which was negotiated under his predecessor, Barack Obama, and he took office promising to re-evaluate or possibly kill the agreement. I think we can look forward to a series of provocations created to provoke some kind of response from Iran that Trump can use as a pretext for killing the deal.

As Eli Lake reported in Bloomberg, since the Iran deal was signed in 2015, every few months the State Department would certify that Iran was complying with the deal. They include "atrocities by the Assad regime" that Iran supports in Syria, "continuing hostility to Israel" and other actions, as well as its missile program and terrorist support.

President Trump, who lambasted the 2015 pact as a candidate, gave himself more time to decide whether to scuttle it or let it stand.

This is the second time the Trump administration has acknowledged Iran's compliance, and the president reportedly told his aides he does not intend to renew the certification indefinitely, according to the New York Times.

However, the Trump administration critiqued Iran's non-nuclear activities, saying they are "unquestionably in default of the spirit" of the deal. The officials declined to identify which allies they're working with to make changes to the deal and to interpret it more stringently.

This is likely the United States policy going forward, at least for now, efforts to sabotage the deal with violations while grudgingly conceding that Iran isn't actually violating the deal. Other powers that brokered the nuclear deal along with the US have said there's no appetite for renegotiating it.

The recertification itself came with a side-statement insisting that Trump is very unhappy with the deal, and believes Iran is violating "the spirit" of the deal he doesn't like in the first place in non-specific ways.

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