The U.S. military may soon have a new strategy on Iran. Before a meeting with senior military leaders on Oct. 6, President Donald Trump was asked by reporters whether he has a decision on Iran. He replied, “You’ll be hearing about Iran very shortly.”
“We must not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons,” Trump said adding that “the Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed, and chaos across the Middle East.”
“That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions,” Trump said, adding that Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
During a photo shoot before the meeting with military leaders Trump said that “maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”
When asked what he meant, Trump said “you’ll find out.” It is unclear if the president’s statement referred to his coming action on Iran.
Under the JCPAO, which President Barack Obama spearheaded in 2015, Iran significantly reduced its enrichment of uranium in exchange for a lift in sanctions. However, critics have pointed to the fact that the restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment start to phase out after ten years, allowing the regime at that point to built thousands of advanced centrifuges. At that point Iran could develop a nuclear weapon in as little as six months.
A Sept. 24 White House fact sheet outlining travel restrictions to countries with terrorist and other public-safety threats explains several other security issues the United States has with Iran.
It says the government of Iran “is the source of significant terrorist threats; is state sponsor of terrorism; and fails to receive its nationals subject to final orders of removal from the United States.” It adds that the Iranian regime also “fails to cooperate with the United States Government in identifying security risk.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said at the American Enterprise Institute on Sept. 5, “The biggest concern is that Iranian leaders–the same ones who in the past were caught operating a covert nuclear program at military sites–have stated publicly that they will refuse to allow [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspections of their military sites.”
“We were promised ‘anytime, anywhere’ inspections of sites in Iran. The final agreement delivered much less. The promised 24/7 inspections apply only to Iran’s ‘declared’ nuclear sites. For any undeclared but suspected sites, the regime can deny access for up to 24 days,” she said.
Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have reportedly said it’s in the U.S. national security interests to keep the Iranian nuclear deal. It’s still unclear, however, what the U.S. decision on the Iran deal will entail.
When Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. was questioned during an Oct. 5 press briefing on Mattis’ statements, he suggested it was just one of many opinions that Mattis has shared with Trump.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said during an Oct. 3 briefing that “Mattis, of course, one of many people who is providing expertise and counsel to the President on the issue of Iran” and the nuclear deal, but noted “The President is getting lots of information on that.”
According to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Trump already has a decision which may include issues on Iran beyond the nuclear deal, and plans to announce it soon.
“The President has, as he said, made a decision on this, and he’ll make that announcement at the appropriate time. The main focus that he has had has been a comprehensive strategy on how to deal with Iran,” Sanders said during an Oct. 5 press briefing.
“That is what he wanted his team to put in place,” Sanders said, “and I think you will see that announced in short order.”