The US has again said that it may leave the July 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 Powers, while avoiding any commitment to do so.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley (pictured), read a 20-minute statement at an appearance in Washington on Tuesday, asserting that Iran’s compliance with the agreement — twice certified by Donald Trump as well as repeatedly by the International Atomic Energy Agency — is not sufficient for continued American adherence.
Haley put the wider argument, reflected in new sanctions adopted by the Congress in late July, that aspects of Iran’s “hostility towards the US” and its behavior in the Middle East must be considered.
Congress adopted the new restrictions on the grounds of Iran’s continued ballistic missile testing, alleged support of “terrorism”, and human rights records.
Depicting a “very flawed and very limited agreement” that was “designed to be too big to fail,” Haley said yesterday:
What I am saying is should [Trump] decide to decertify, he has grounds to stand on. It’s very easy to just talk about compliance and the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. But there’s so much more to the story that we need to be looking at….
Everyone hoped the deal would make the Iranian government good people, but no one looked at the history of Iran, no one looked at all the past aggressions they have shown.”
But Washington immediately appeared to run into trouble with European countries, whom Iran has been trying to detach from the US line on the deal, notably in a televised appearance by President Hassan Rouhani last week.
The French Ambassador, Gerard Araud, issued a rebuke on Twitter:
The Iran deal is about the nuclear issue, nothing else. So far, Iran is abiding by the commitments taken in this mutually agreed framework.
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) September 5, 2017
Far from stepping back, Haley appeared to accept a split from British, France, and Germany, who were involved in the deal alongside Russia, China, and the European Union.
She asserted that the European countries understood US concerns but chided that Washington’s job was not to make sure allies were “comfortable”: “This is about US national security, this is not about European security.”
Haley spoke dramatically of the situation as the formal terms of the JCPOA ended in a decade, necessitating a review of the limits on Iran’s production of 20% enriched uranium: “What if we just gave them 10 years, and all the money they wanted to do what they want to prepare for, when that 10th year hits and they start nuclear war?”
Although Trump again certified Iranian compliance in July, his officials said the US would look to step up pressure on Iran. The Administration has attempted in recent weeks to apply this through a demand for inspection of Iranian military sites, with Haley visiting IAEA headquarters, but has gotten little traction so far.