The Trump administration is not looking for a pretext to junk the international nuclear deal with Iran, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Tuesday, despite the president’s sharp criticism of the agreement and reports that he has been reluctant to certify that Tehran is meeting its obligations.
“We have no decision made. The president doesn’t have a decision made,” Haley said in an interview. “What we are doing is trying to find out as much information as we can.”
Haley will be in Vienna on Wednesday for meetings with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog overseeing the 2015 agreement, that she said are meant to answer U.S. questions about the scope and effectiveness of inspections and monitoring.
That does not mean the United States has prejudged whether Iran is complying with the terms of the landmark nuclear deal, Haley said.
“What I think is very important to this administration is facts,” Haley said, adding that her trip will help the administration assess its choices in dealing with a country she said is in repeated violation of other U.N. directives on terrorism, human rights and more.
“This is not a country that can be trusted. This is not a country that has given us a reason to trust them. So I think the president has every reason to be leery of the actions by Iran.”
At issue is an upcoming White House decision on whether to certify that Iran is meeting its end of the bargain. Congress mandated such checkups every 90 days, and the next deadline is in October.
Trump has twice signed off on such certifications, but did so grudgingly in July. He then told the Wall Street Journal that he “would be surprised if they were in compliance.”
Haley’s trip comes amid escalating insults and threats lobbed by both the United States and Iran over which nation is undermining the nuclear agreement.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned last week that Iran could walk away “within hours” if the United States slaps more sanctions on his country.
A day later, Haley responded with a warning of her own.
“Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage,” she said in a statement. “The nuclear deal must not become ‘too big to fail.’ ”
That brought a rebuke from Haley’s U.N. counterpart, Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshrou, who said her remarks were “devoid of any shred of truth” and part of a U.S. campaign bent on “demonizing Iran and undermining the JCPOA inconsistent with the U.S. commitments.”
JCPOA stands for the agreement’s formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, complained to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano that Haley’s visit was intended to sow doubt about the agreement.
“Even before the visit takes place, the way it is planned and publicized and the signal that it sends have notable detrimental consequences for the successful implementation of the JCPOA,” Zarif wrote in a letter to Amano.
Haley dismissed Iran’s implication that she is searching for ammunition.
“I find it interesting that Iran is so worried about me going to Vienna,” she said. “If they don’t have anything to hide they shouldn’t be concerned about me asking questions of the IAEA.”
Iran warned Tuesday that it needs only five days to ramp up uranium enrichment to a level at which the material could be used for a nuclear weapon, the Associated Press reported.
“If there is a plan for a reaction and a challenge, we will definitely surprise them,” said Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi. “If we make the determination, we are able to resume 20 percent-enrichment in at most five days.”
As a candidate, Trump called the agreement brokered with Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany “the dumbest deal perhaps I’ve ever seen in the history of deal-making.”
He threatened to tear it up, but was vague about whether he planned to renegotiate it.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Anne Gearan