Trump expected to announce broad, hawkish Iran strategy

U.S. President Donald Trump will make an announcement this week on an “overall Iran strategy,” including whether to decertify the international deal curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, the White House said on Tuesday.

“He’ll make that later this week,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters when asked about the certification decision and the administration’s broader strategy on Iran.

Trump, who has called the 2015 pact agreed between Iran and six world powers an “embarrassment,” is expected to announce that he will decertify the deal ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline, a senior administration official said last week.

Trump is also expected to designate Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corp, as a terrorist organization as part of a new Iran strategy. Tehran has vowed a “crushing repose” to any such designation, saying it would prompt it to consider the U.S. Army equivalent to the Islamic State group.

“The president has reached a decision on an overall Iran strategy and wants to make sure that we have a broad policy to deal with all of the problems of Iran being a bad actor,” Sanders said.

Trump accuses Iran of supporting terrorism and says the 2015 deal does not do enough to block its path to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran says it does not seek nuclear weapons and in turn blames the growth of militant groups such as Islamic State on the policies of the United States and its regional allies.

The hawkish turn in U.S. policy toward Iran has alarmed many of its European allies. British Prime Minister Theresa May told Trump by phone on Tuesday that the deal was “vitally important for regional security.”

“The [prime minister] reaffirmed the U.K.’s strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners, saying it was vitally important for regional security and stressed that it was important that the deal was carefully monitored and properly enforced,” said a statement from May’s office following the call on Tuesday evening.

In contrast, a White House statement on the phone call said Trump “underscored the need to work together to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its malign and destabilizing activities, especially its sponsorship of terrorism and its development of threatening missiles.”

In a separate statement, Britain’s Foreign Office said Iran had upheld its nuclear commitments, adding to international pressure on Trump not to jeopardize security in the region.

“The nuclear deal was a crucial agreement that neutralized Iran’s nuclear threat,” Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said.

“It was the culmination of 13 years of painstaking diplomacy and has increased security, both in the region and in the U.K. It is these security implications that we continue to encourage the U.S. to consider.”

Johnson spoke by telephone with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Tuesday and will on Wednesday meet the head of Iran’s nuclear agency in London to press for continued compliance with the deal.

May and Trump also discussed the need for Britain, the United States and others to work together to counter destabilizing Iranian activity in the region, May’s office said.

The issue was also discussed in a phone conversation between May and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

World powers express support for Iran deal

Britain and the United States are two of eight signatories to the deal, along with Iran, China, France, Russia, Germany and the European Union.

China, Russia and the European states have already expressed their continued support for the deal, while Iran has said Trump would not be able to undermine the pact.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Monday urged the United States “not to call into question such an important achievement that has improved our security.”

France voiced concern on Tuesday that designating the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group could exacerbate tensions in the region.

If Trump declines to certify the Iran deal, U.S. congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the agreement.

Iranian authorities, who have said Tehran would not be the first to violate the accord, have stepped up their rhetoric against the Trump administration over the possible terrorist designation of the Revolutionary Guards.

“The Americans have driven the world crazy by their behavior. It is time to teach them a new lesson,” Iranian Armed Forces Spokesman Masoud Jazayeri said on Tuesday.

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