WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that Iran was not upholding its obligations under the landmark nuclear deal struck in 2015 by former president Barack Obama.
“I don’t think they’re living up to the spirit of the agreement,” he told reporters at his private golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey, where Trump is currently spending a 17-day retreat from Washington.
“They are not in compliance with the agreement and they certainly are not in the spirit of the agreement in compliance, and I think you’ll see some very strong things taking place if they don’t get themselves in compliance,” he went on to say.
Trump has been signaling for weeks that he would like to declare Tehran noncompliant with the terms of the accord. In July, he instructed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to verify to Congress that Iran was abiding by the pact.
But two weeks ago, he told The Wall Street Journal he did not suspect he would do the same three months from now. Under the agreement, the White House must certify to Congress every three months whether Iran is honoring the deal, which rolled back sanctions in exchange for curbing Iran’s nuclear program.
“We’re doing very detailed studies,” he told the Journal. “We’ve been extremely nice to them in saying they were compliant, OK? We’ve given them the benefit of every doubt. But we’re doing very detailed studies.”
“I think they’ll be noncompliant,” he added, discussing what he will declare after the next 180-day cycle. “I think they’re taking advantage of this country. They’ve taken advantage of a president, named Barack Obama, who didn’t know what the hell he was doing. And I do not expect that they will be compliance.”
Furthermore, The New York Times has reported that Trump and his aides are actively seeking to find a way out of the deal.
At the time of the certification, the administration was emphatic that while Iran was technically complying with the pact, it did not believe it was living up to its spirit.
A senior administration official briefed reporters hours before the certification, citing Iran’s ballistic missile testing and development, support for terrorism, support for the Bashar Assad regime in Syria and other human rights violations and arbitrary detainment of foreigners.
Also cited was Tehran’s “continuing hostility of Israel” and its “cyber attacks against the United States and Israel,” the official said.
In his remarks to reporters Thursday, Trump continued his practice of criticizing his predecessor.
“President Obama in his wisdom gave them $150 billion,” he said. “He gave them $1.8 billion in cash. That’s a hard one to figure. But that was his decision. I think it’s a horrible agreement.”
As a presidential candidate, Trump was highly critical of the deal, often calling it the worst ever negotiated. But he also provided contradictory messages for how he would handle the Iranian challenge.
In his address at the 2016 AIPAC conference, for instance, Trump said he would both “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran” and “enforce the terms of the previous deal to hold Iran totally accountable.”
As president, he has refrained from abrogating the agreement, but has intimated he would like to do so if Iranian behavior did not change.
He did, however, impose new sanctions on multiple Iranian entities and individuals in February after Tehran defied a United Nations Security Council resolution by testing ballistic missiles.
The Senate late last month also imposed mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. It would also apply terrorism sanctions to Iran’s prestigious Revolutionary Guard and enforce an arms embargo.