No decision yet on Iran deal, says US Defence Secretary Mattis

US Defense Secretary James Mattis at Capitol Hill on April 26, 2018 in Washington,DC.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis at Capitol Hill on April 26, 2018 in Washington,DC.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP, REUTERS) - Defence Secretary James Mattis on Thursday (April 26) said no decision had been made on whether the United States is going to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

President Donald Trump is due on May 12 to announce his decision about whether America will stay in the historic pact, as US and European diplomats work on a supplemental deal to address his concerns.

"I can assure you there has been no decision made on any withdrawal from JCPOA," General Mattis said of the deal, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"The discussions are ongoing in the national security staff and those of us who are charged with that responsibility of giving the President advice. It's going on today as we speak," Gen Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He also played down concerns about whether a potential US withdrawal from the deal would undermine attempts to strike an agreement with North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.

“Some people point out that this could impact on the North Korea negotiations. But I would say in that case, in light of Kim’s family and himself breaking every international treaty, every agreement they’ve ever made... I’m less concerned with that ripple effect right now,” Gen Mattis said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“I think we need to focus on what is in the best interest of Middle East stability and the threat that Iran poses.”

Though he thinks the deal is flawed, Gen Mattis has previously said he supports America staying in it, telling lawmakers in October it is in the US national interest to do so.

But Gen Mattis offered no such support on Thursday.

"There are obviously aspects of the JCPOA... that can be improved on. We are working with our European allies on it at this time, and again at this time, the decision has not been made whether we can repair it enough to stay, or if the President if going to decide to withdraw from it," he said.

Mr Trump, who campaigned on scrapping the Iran deal, has branded it as "insane" and the "worst" in history.

"This is a deal with decayed foundations. It's a bad deal, it's a bad structure. It's falling down," Mr Trump said on Tuesday. "We're going to see what happens on the 12th."