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By Anne Gearan and Abby Phillip,
President Trump is expected to announce Friday that he will abide by an international nuclear deal with Iran for now, but ask Congress to attach new caveats that could either strengthen the deal or lead to its rupture, outside advisers and other people familiar with the planning said.
Trump is expected to set his dissatisfaction with what he sees as gaps and failures in the agreement within a larger reframe of U.S. policy toward Iran. He plans to withdraw presidential “certification” or endorsement of the agreement negotiated by his predecessor, but will not recommend that Congress immediately bust terms of the agreement by reimposing U.S. sanctions on Iran, those people said.
Trump has frequently criticized the agreement as weak on Iran and unfair to the United States. But he has listened for months as important allies, a majority of his senior national security advisers and many congressional leaders have argued that it retains value for the United States.
Trump’s compromise gives at least temporary reprieve to an agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear activities and opened its economy to greater Western investment, but which does not foreclose the possibility that the Islamic Republic could eventually develop a nuclear w
The Trump administration has worked with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a leading Iran hawk, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) to come up with a plan for legislation that would set new conditions on U.S. participation in the deal. Both senators have discussed elements of that plan, and Cotton said he will not lead a charge to reimpose sanctions.
The United States wants to strengthen inspection procedures under the deal, something that could be done without renegotiating it, but other U.S. goals would be set out in separate legislation.
Congress could buck the administration’s request and slap the sanctions back on, although that appears unlikely now.
Trump’s address is expected to cover a range of U.S. allegations about Iran, including alleged support for terrorist activities and a ballistic missile program that the United States suspects is tied to a nuclear weapons plan that Iran denies.
Trump has already said that those activities mean that Iran is not living up to the “spirit” of the nuclear accord, although U.S. officials acknowledge that Iran is meeting its technical obligations.
The 2015 agreement among the United States, Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China set limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of what had become crippling economic sanctions imposed over nuclear development that much of the world feared was aimed at a bomb.
The pact was a signature foreign policy goal of the Obama administration, which considered it a potential building block for a better U.S. relationship with Iran after more than three decades of enmity.
Critics of the deal say the agreement does not prevent an eventual Iranian bomb and at best merely delays that capability. They often point to “sunset” provisions in the agreement, under which Iran would be able to resume various nuclear activity within a few years.
The pact as negotiated is limited to Iranian nuclear activity, which the country claims has always been peaceful. Under the agreement, Iran was allowed to keep some uranium enrichment capacity.
The deal was not designed to address many other areas of international concern, including Iranian missile programs, its alleged support for terrorism, its human rights record and other issues. All of those are subject to separate international and U.S. sanctions that are unaffected by the nuclear agreement.
The administration decisions are timed to a congressional mandate that the president certify each 90 days that Iran is meetings its obligation under the agreement and that the deal remains in U.S. interests. Trump has twice made that certification, each time under duress. He told advisers he would not do so again at the next deadline, Oct. 15.