Will Racke, DCNF
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson promised Wednesday to take a hard look at the nuclear agreement the U.S. negotiated with Iran, saying that it does nothing to address Tehran’s continued support of terrorism in the Middle East.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ignores “serious threats” posed by Iran, he said, and could cause problems for whoever follows President Donald Trump in the White House.
“The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck on Iran,” Tillerson said during a press conference at the State Department, adding that the administration plans to “completely review the JCPOA itself.”
The secretary of state’s remarks come a day after he sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announcing that Trump had ordered an inter-agency review of JCPOA amid concerns about Tehran’s continued sponsorship of terrorism. In the letter, Tillerson confirmed that Iran is currently complying with its obligations under JCPOA, but said the U.S. would re-evaluate lifting sanctions on Tehran given its support of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah.
Tillerson’s statement also coincided with Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to Saudi Arabia, where he met Wednesday with Saudi leaders to discuss plans for stabilizing conflicts in the Middle East. Mattis told reporters that Iran is a foremost concern for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia alike.
“Everywhere you look, if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran,” Mattis said. “So, right now, what we are seeing is the nations in the region and others elsewhere trying to checkmate Iran and the amount of disruption, the amount of instability they can cause.”
The U.S., Iran and other major powers signed the JCPOA, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, in 2016. The agreement restricts Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international energy and financial sanctions. Trump has blasted JCPOA as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and threatened to renegotiate or rip up the agreement.
Tillerson criticized the way the Obama administration negotiated JCPOA, saying that a narrow focus on Tehran’s nuclear program has done nothing to check Iran’s ability to cause chaos throughout the world.
“An unchecked Iran has the potential to follow the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it,” he said Wednesday. “The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach.”
The remarks were an obvious rebuke of the Obama administration, which lauded JCPOA as the signature foreign policy achievement of the former president’s second term.
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