WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump is prepared to withdraw from a nuclear agreement reached with Iran and other international powers in 2015, his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said on Thursday.
Speaking at a forum hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that contributed research and scholarship to the Trump administration’s new strategy on Iran unveiled last week, McMaster said the president’s first choice is to get Congress and European allies on board with a “pressure” strategy that will force Iran back to the negotiating table.
Trump’s national security team hopes to negotiate an addendum to the nuclear deal that will address its greatest concerns with the current agreement: its expiration dates, its omission of any restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile work and its opaque language on granting international nuclear inspectors swift access to Iran’s military bases.
If Congress fails to pass legislation that helps bolster Trump’s diplomatic leverage, and if European powers refuse to come along with his strategy, the president will “absolutely” terminate the deal, McMaster said. Trump last week threatened to terminate the accord wholesale if his more measured approach fails to deliver.
“This is a gift that gives over time” to Iran, McMaster said of the nuclear accord. “There’s the fundamental flaw of the sunset clause,” he added, characterizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as “cover” for Iran to reach a nuclear “threshold capability.”
McMaster noted that Trump’s October 13 speech on Iran was intended to be a comprehensive policy outline. In his remarks with the foundation’s Mark Dubowitz, McMaster specifically went after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a “terrorist enabling” body that engages in drug smuggling worldwide.
“They’re a great narcotics trafficking organization” that “enrich themselves while they poison the world – and use that money to create murder,” McMaster said.
He said Trump views Iran’s government as being at the core of the problems plaguing the Middle East, from instability in Iraq to the ceaseless violence in Syria, the arms buildup in Lebanon and the slaughter in Yemen.
McMaster claimed that Iran seeks to establish a “Hezbollah model” of governance in Iraq, where the central government is weak and relies on Tehran for aid and security.
In southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based, he said the group has sold itself disingenuously as a representative of oppressed and disenfranchised Shi’ites.
In reality, Hezbollah’s moves in recent years “have been to act as a proxy for the Iranians and the IRGC.” McMaster pointed to the group’s stockpiling of tens of thousands of sophisticated rockets pointed at Israel, funded and built by Iran.
“What do you expect Israel to do on that kind of threat?” he asked. “And how is that good for the Lebanese people?” Asked what US policy would be toward Hezbollah going forward, McMaster replied: “Expose it for what it is.”