Mattis: Trump Admin. Already Working with Allies to Prevent Iran from Acquiring Nukes

Iran nuclear deal 'inadequate for the long-term effort'

Secretary of Defense James Mattis
Secretary of Defense James Mattis / Getty Images
May 9, 2018

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday the Trump administration is working with U.S. allies on a measure to prevent Iran from procuring a nuclear weapon, less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump torpedoed the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal.

Testifying before the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mattis said Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord on Tuesday because he was unable to confirm Tehran's compliance to its provisions, which exchanged sanctions relief for a pause on the regime's nuclear program.

"We have walked away from the JCPOA because we feel that it was inadequate for the long-term effort and this is something that was probably noted by the Senate several years ago when the Senate did not endorse it as a treaty," Mattis said, referring to the deal's official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

"It was not a hasty decision. The administration has been in place for over a year, and for over a year we have attempted to work with allies on the shortcomings of it, so I think now we have an opportunity to move forward to address those shortcomings and make it more compelling. That effort is underway already, with the secretary of state, secretary of treasury, and others working the issue."

Mattis said the administration will collaborate with U.S. allies and partners to stunt Iran's destabilizing activities in the Middle East, including the ongoing developments to its ballistic missile program, its support of terrorism, and its threat to international commerce in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

Iranian leaders have threatened to retaliate against the United States in response to Trump's decision to abandon the landmark deal and reimpose a series of sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the agreement. Iran has rejected Trump's calls for a new deal, warning it is prepared to rapidly restart uranium enrichment—the process used to make nuclear weapons.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters Tuesday the United States has already kicked off discussions with allies on a strengthened accord. European allies France, Germany, and the United Kingdom had forcefully lobbied the Trump administration to remain in the agreement and have signaled they may attempt to salvage it without the United States.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) called Trump's decision to scrap the deal "reckless," saying the international inspections regime required under the accord to probe Iran's nuclear facilities is now at risk.

"We are in a situation where we have had under this agreement inspectors on the ground who have reported to us directly and personally in the United States Senate the success of their inspection regime to make certain that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon," Durbin said to Mattis. "By walking away from this agreement, we are forsaking the opportunity to continue to monitor in detail the work done by Iran to make certain that they live up to its terms."