WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme, a senior administration official has said, in a step that could potentially cause the 2015 accord to unravel.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr Trump is also expected to roll out a broader US strategy on Iran that would be more confrontational. The Trump administration has often criticised Iran's conduct in the Middle East.
Mr Trump has long opposed the deal negotiation by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, denouncing it as an "embarrassment" and "the worst deal ever negotiated". He has been weighing whether the deal serves US security interests as he faces an Oct 15 deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with its terms.
"We must not allow Iran... to obtain nuclear weapons," Mr Trump said during a meeting with military leaders at the White House on Thursday. "The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed and chaos across the Middle East. That is why we must put an end to Iran's continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement."
Asked whether he will certify the deal, Mr Trump said: "You will be hearing about Iran very shortly."
Supporters of the deal say its collapse could trigger a regional arms race and worsen Middle East tensions, while opponents say it went too far in easing sanctions without requiring that Iran end its nuclear programme permanently.
The Iranian authorities have repeatedly said Teheran would not be the first to violate the accord, under which Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear programme in return for lifting most international sanctions that had crippled its economy.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned on Thursday that Teheran would abide by the provisions of the nuclear deal only if the other parties remain committed to it. He said if the agreement collapsed, Iran would come up with more advanced nuclear technology than the pre-agreement era.
If Mr Trump declines to certify Iran's compliance, US congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Teheran suspended under the agreement. Whether Congress would be willing to reimpose sanctions is far from clear.
The prospect that Washington could renege on the pact, which was signed by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it.
French President Emmanuel Macron said last month there was no alternative to the accord.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday that it was "very important" to preserve the deal in its current form.