The Corner

National Security & Defense

McMaster Outlines Hillary Clinton–Like Approach to Certification of Iran Nuclear Deal

At a noon conference call today on how the Trump administration plans to certify the nuclear deal with Iran (the JCPOA) for a second time, National Security Council director H. R. McMaster spoke at length about why the JCPOA is a bad deal and how it has not changed Iran’s behavior. McMaster and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also announced new sanctions against Iran. However, McMaster still indicated that the administration plans to again certify to Congress that Iran is complying with the agreement. This decision includes certifying that the agreement is in the national-security interests of the United States.

McMaster said Iran is in default of the spirit of the agreement and “we need to take a closer look at whether it is violating the letter of the deal.” According to McMaster, Iran has been “walking up to violating the letter” of the JCPOA.

This is false. I asked McMaster how the Trump administration could do this in light of clear evidence that Iran is violating the JCPOA. I mentioned recent op-eds that Ambassador John Bolton and I wrote on these violations in The Hill and NRO. I said that this is a very troubling decision that amounts to looking the other way on Iran’s violations, legitimizing the dangerous concessions the Obama administration made to get this deal and goes against the president’s statements during the presidential campaign. I added that this policy to stick with the JCPOA is little different than what Hillary Clinton would have done if she had won the 2016 election.

McMaster refused to answer my question. He refused to address the issue of Iranian violations at all until another questioner pushed him on this which led McMaster to give the misleading answer above on Iran being in default of the spirit of this agreement.

McMaster mentioned an ongoing review of Iran policy that reportedly will be completed by late summer. But with a decision like this, there seems little doubt the administration is not going to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise to kill or substantially renegotiate the nuclear deal.

My hope is that President Trump will look at the facts concerning the dangers of the JCPOA and Iranian violations and not certify Iranian compliance. Other steps are urgently needed to bring the Trump administration’s Iran policy in line with what President Trump promised during the campaign.

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff.

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