- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2018

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Thursday the White House has yet to pull the trigger on an all-out withdrawal from the controversial nuclear proliferation pact with Iran, telling congressional lawmakers that administration officials are still weighing the benefits and consequences of such a decision.

“I can assure you there has been no decision made on withdrawal” from the nuclear deal, Mr. Mattis said, adding that “discussions are ongoing within the [White House] national security staff” on the future of the deal.

“It is going on as we speak,” the Pentagon chief told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, testifying alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford and Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist on the department’s budget request for fiscal year 2019.

The Trump administration is staring down a May 12 deadline on whether to ratify the nuclear accord or pull out.

“We have to look at what degree of fix is achievable” within the confines of the deal, measuring that achievability against the White House’s May 12 deadline for ratification, Mr. Mattis said, when asked whether administration officials could meet that deadline.



Mr. Trump and his national security team, led by newly installed National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, have repeatedly called for the dissolution of the nuclear deal with Iran despite the continuing support of other world powers, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

If Mr. Trump effectively withdraws from the deal, the U.S. will reimpose sanctions that Iran says negate the main purpose of the accord.

Proponents of the pact say there is no tangible proof that Tehran has failed to comply with the nonproliferation elements of the Iran deal, even if Iran continues to test other military systems and remains a destabilizing force for American allies across the Middle East. Further, backers of the deal note the U.S. and its Western allies will have no good option to restrain Iran’s nuclear programs if Mr. Trump takes Washington out of the deal.

Mr. Mattis, who had been an outspoken opponent of the deal before taking the reins at the Pentagon, said Thursday “there are obviously aspects of the … agreement that can be improved upon,” noting that White House officials are working closely with their European allies on such improvements.

“The decision has yet to be made if we can repair it enough to stay in it,” or if the deal is simply a lost cause to the current administration, Mr. Mattis said.

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