Trump lays out new Iran strategy Friday, complicating European ties

President Donald Trump speaks in Washington
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to introduce his Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Kirstjen Nielsen in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

October 13, 2017

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will lay out a more confrontational strategy toward Iran by the United States on Friday in a speech in which he is likely to strike a blow at an international Iran nuclear deal, complicating U.S. relations with European allies.

U.S. officials said Trump was expected to announce that he will not certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, believing the agreement is not in the national interests of the United States. He had certified it twice before but aides said he was reluctant to do so a third time.

Trump could have a last minute change of heart before he outlines his administration’s new approach toward Iran in speech at the White House at 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT) on Friday.

The step would not withdraw the United States from the deal but would give the U.S. Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose the sanctions on Tehran that were suspended under an agreement that was negotiated by the United States and other world powers during the administration of former President Barack Obama.

International inspectors say Iran is in technical compliance with the accord, but Trump says Tehran is in violation of the spirit of the agreement and has done nothing to rein in its ballistic missile program or its financial and military support for Hezbollah and other extremist groups.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said the U.S. approach toward Iran is to work with allies in the Middle East to contain Tehran’s activities.

“We have footprints on the ground, naval and Air Force is there to just demonstrate our resolve, our friendship, and try to deter anything that any country out there may do,” Kelly said.

European allies are warning of a split with the United States on the issue.

This week, Trump has heard appeals from British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron for the United States to certify the deal for the sake of allied unity.

“It’s imperative that Europe sticks together on this issue,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the RND German newspaper group. “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”

Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Trump has called the accord “an embarrassment” and “the worst deal ever.”

European officials have categorically ruled out renegotiating the deal, but have said they share Trump’s concerns over Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East.

The threat of new action from Washington has prompted a public display of unity from the rival factions among Iran’s rulers.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday kept up a steady drumbeat of Trump administration criticism of Iran, saying Tehran is “mounting a ruthless drive to be the hegemonic power in the region.”

Iran’s intelligence service and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “are the cudgels of a despotic theocracy, with the IRGC accountable only to a Supreme Leader. They’re the vanguard of a pernicious empire that is expanding its power and influence across the Middle East,” Pompeo said in remarks at the University of Texas in Austin.

In Tampa, Florida, the head of U.S. Central Command said he was concerned about Iran’s long-term activities in the region and he would continue to focus on protecting U.S. troops, even as Iran has said U.S. regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed.

“Iran is kind of a long-term destabilizing actor in the region and so we remain concerned about their activities as well,” U.S. General Joseph Votel told reporters.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Warren Strobel in Washington and Idrees Ali in Florida; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Grant McCool)

  • CCTexas

    Hey Steve Holland, Europe has been a pain in our side for decades. You need stop being a Trump basher and start understanding the world. Unless, of course, you wish to move over to the E.U., in that case, pack up boy.

  • Keith Kanyeshna

    “European allies are warning of a split with the United States on the issue”. Outstanding! I saw pull out of Germany completely. Our troops are now in danger with all the savage Muslims. Germany will soon be overthrown by Islam and our solders should not be there.

  • CDG

    The President is absolutely correct in passing this “deal” to Congress. It is too important and too full of loop holes to not be thoroughly reviewed by Congress. They need to do their jobs. IF it is a good deal then it should have no trouble being ratified….

  • Scott Henke

    Europe will be singing a different tune when they’re in range of Iran’s missiles.

  • “I’m a Rooster!”

    I believe the Iranians know what is coming…

  • Andrew Moore8

    And we are supposed to care about European ties with Iran why?????

  • Ipickedaside

    News flash we don’t need you Europe you need America.

  • RMCS Ret.

    Europe is energy poor while Iran and Russia are energy rich. Europe will do most anything to keep the energy flowing. We need to convince them that we can supply their energy needs. Simultaneously we need to convince our tree huggers the wisdom of doing that. We bailed europe out in WWI and WWII and I’m in no hurry to do it again. They need to wise up. I’m leaving the Brits out of this, they seem to have their heads screwed on at least partially straight.

  • VectorV

    “We also have to tell the Americans that their behavior on the Iran issue will drive us Europeans into a common position with Russia and China against the USA.”

    Knock yourselves out you idiots.

    • Snideley_whiplassche

      Go for it, kiss dem socialist/communist behinds, nothing kept you euros from it before eh?