Although Trump will not withdraw from the nuclear deal, sources say he will not certify Iran's compliance, passing the decision to Congress.

US President Trump's Friday speech is expected to harshly criticise both the Iranian government and the nuclear deal, as well as propose a possible replacement for the latter. October 12, 2017.
US President Trump's Friday speech is expected to harshly criticise both the Iranian government and the nuclear deal, as well as propose a possible replacement for the latter. October 12, 2017. (AP)

US President Donald Trump plans to deliver a broad and harsh critique of Iran in a speech on Friday declaring that the landmark Iran nuclear deal is not in America's national security interests, according to US officials and outside advisers to the administration.

According to a report in the New York Times, the president will not certify Iran's compliance to the deal signed two years ago. Trump is supposed to acknowledge Iran's compliance by signing off on the deal every 90 days and has done so two time so far. 

Underscoring that the Iran nuclear deal is no longer in US national security interests, Trump will maintain he won't withdraw from the 2015 international accord or immediately re-impose sanctions against Tehran, according to US officials and outside advisers to the administration.

Trump's speech from the White House will outline specific faults he finds in the 2015 accord but will also focus on an array of Iran's troubling non-nuclear activities, four officials and advisers said. 

Those include Tehran's ballistic missile program, support for Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad, Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and other groups that destabilise the region.

Preview of speech

Under US law, Trump faces a Sunday deadline to notify Congress whether Iran is complying with the accord that was painstakingly negotiated over 18 months by the Obama administration and determine if it remains a national security priority. 

Although Trump intends to say Iran is living up to the letter of the agreement, he will make the case that the deal is fatally flawed and that its non-nuclear behaviour violates the spirit of the regional stability it was intended to encourage, the officials and advisers said.

The officials and advisers, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly preview the speech, said Trump will not call for a re-imposition of nuclear sanctions on Tehran. 

He will urge lawmakers to codify tough new requirements for Tehran to continue to benefit from the sanctions relief that it won in exchange for curbing its atomic program. 

And he'll announce his long-anticipated intent to impose sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps by designating it a terrorist organisation under an existing executive order, according to the officials and advisers.

In addition, Trump will ask Congress to amend or replace outright the legislation that currently requires him to certify Iranian compliance every 90 days. 

Officials have said that Trump hates the requirement more than the nuclear deal itself because it forces him to take a position every three months on what he has denounced as the worst deal in American history.

That frequency has also irritated aides who have complained that they are spending inordinate amounts of time on certification at the expense of other issues.

Iran and Russia's reactions

If the United States leaves the Iran nuclear deal, this will be the end of this international agreement, the TASS news agency cited Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani as saying on Friday.

Larijani, in Russia's second largest city of St Petersburg for an international parliamentary forum, also said that Washington's withdrawal from the nuclear deal could lead to global chaos, TASS reported.

Iran hopes that Russia will play a role in resolving the situation around the nuclear deal, Larijani said in a meeting Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Duma lower house of Russia's parliament, the Interfax news agency reported. 

On Friday, the Kremlin said that If the United States withdraws from the Iran nuclear  deal, this will have extremely negative consequences, and Iran is likely to quit the agreement as well.

"Certainly, this will damage the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman DmitryPeskov told a conference call with reporters.

He said Russia would continue its policy to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov reiterated Russia's stance saying that Russia was determined to implement the Iran nuclear deal in the form approved by the United Nations.

Effect on US-EU relations

American allies, who have pressed the White House to remain in the nuclear accord, will be closely watching the president's address. Trump wants to impress on the European parties to the accord – Germany, France and Britain – the importance of fixing what he sees as flaws in the nuclear accord and addressing malign behaviour not covered in the agreement.

Europe, Iran, Russia, China and many others have ruled out reopening the deal. But some, notably France, have signalled a willingness to tackle unresolved issues in supplementary negotiations. 

Among those issues are the expiration of several restrictions on advanced nuclear activity under so-called "sunset clauses" that allow Iran to begin ramping up its enrichment capabilities after 10 years, the end of an arms embargo and the eventual easing of demands for a halt to its missile program.

In the speech, Trump hopes to "recruit" the Europeans into joining his broad strategy, particularly by punishing the Revolutionary Guard, which he and his national security team believe is fomenting instability, violence and extremism throughout the Middle East and beyond, according to one official.

New proposals

In anticipation of Trump's announcements, Republican legislators have drawn up new versions of the law replacing the current 90-day timetable with "semi-annual" certifications, according to two drafts seen by the Associated Press this week.

Both drafts, one from Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker, and one from committee member and harsh deal critic Senator Tom Cotton, expand the US certification criteria to include items that are also the province of the UN nuclear watchdog and require the US intelligence community to determine if Iran is carrying out illicit activity in facilities to which the International Atomic Energy Agency has not had access.

The certification would also demand that the intelligence community produce judgments on Iranian behaviour not covered by the nuclear deal, including missile testing and development, backing for Hezbollah and Assad and threats to Israel and the Mideast more broadly, according to the drafts.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies