- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2017

The Trump administration certified late Monday that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal signed by President Obama in 2015, but the U.S. is pushing for tougher enforcement of the agreement and hitting Tehran with a new round of sanctions over its support of terrorism.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson notified Congress of his determination that Iran is still meeting the conditions of the nuclear accord, “based on information available to the United States,” said a senior administration official Monday night.

Mr. Trump has criticized the nuclear accord as a “horrible” deal and pledged during the campaign last year to withdraw the U.S. from the pact. With the certification Monday, he stopped short of unraveling the agreement unilaterally.

“He certainly has made very clear all along his great desire to fix the great flaws in the deal,” a senior official said. “At the moment, the policy remains, still under review. His commitment to fixing these flaws remains steadfast.”

The administration also is asserting that Iran’s development of ballistic missiles, support of terrorism and militancy, hostility toward Israel, complicity in atrocities by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, cyberattacks on the U.S., and other actions “severely undermine the intent” of the nuclear accord.

Based on those actions, Mr. Trump is announcing an additional package of sanctions against 16 Iranian entities and individuals found to be supporting Tehran’s activities in the region.

The new sanctions are part of a larger U.S. effort to counter Iran’s military buildup and support for terrorists across the Middle East, notably in Syria, where Iranian-backed forces have attacked American personnel in recent weeks.

Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Trump intend to emphasize that Iran “remains one of the most dangerous threats” in the region, a senior official said.

The Obama administration joined with five other world powers in 2015 in signing the agreement with Iran to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions.

Mr. Obama has said the accord would prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. But many congressional Republicans and the Israeli government have opposed the deal, saying it won’t stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb or curb its destabilizing activities in the region.

For now, the Trump administration will be working with allies in Europe, including Britain and France, to get tougher on ensuring Iran isn’t cheating on the prohibitions against enrichment of nuclear material and other provisions.

“We need to ensure more aggressively they are in compliance with the letter of the [agreement],” an official said. “Iran has been less than forthcoming, walking up to the edge of violating the [accord]. That behavior has to stop. Our European allies want to work with us to interpret the agreement more strictly. We expect they will be good partners on this.”

A senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned the U.S. on Monday that designating the group a terrorist organization and applying new sanctions could be perilous for U.S. forces in the region.

In mid-June the Senate voted for new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program and other activities not related to the international nuclear agreement. To become law, the legislation must pass the House and be signed by Mr. Trump.

“Counting the Revolutionary Guards the same as terrorist groups and applying similar sanctions to the Revolutionary Guards is a big risk for America and its bases and forces deployed in the region,” Maj. Gen. Mohammad Baqeri, the chief of staff for Iran’s armed forces, said in Sepah News, an official news site of the Guards.

He did not give details on what form of risk he foresaw for U.S. forces and bases.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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