U.S. defense secretary breaks with Trump in backing Iran nuclear deal

The Guardian reports: The US defense secretary, James Mattis, has backed the nuclear deal with Iran, saying it is in the interests of national security to maintain it, breaking with Donald Trump and potentially making it harder for the president to withdraw from the deal.

The timing and nature of Mattis’s remarks are particularly significant because Trump has threatened to withhold certification of the 2015 international agreement in a report to Congress due on 15 October . Under the relevant legislation, the administration has to certify whether Iran is in material breach of the agreement, or if the deal is not serving the national interest.

Mattis was asked at a hearing of the Senate armed services committee whether he believed it was currently in the US national security interest to remain in the agreement.

After a significant pause, the defense secretary replied: “Yes, senator, I do.”

At the same hearing, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph Dunford agreed that Iran was abiding by the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which he said had delayed Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. Last week, Dunford said the US should uphold the agreement, in the absence of a clear Iranian breach, or risk losing credibility when it came to signing future agreements. [Continue reading…]

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