Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo said at his confirmation hearing Thursday that he wants to fix the Iran nuclear deal, adding that he could see President Donald Trump sticking with the agreement if they are "close" to a better one in the next month.
The Hill reports:
The Trump administration is negotiating with European allies for a follow-on deal that addresses three issues Trump sees with the Iran deal: several provisions sunset, inspectors can't demand to see some military sites, and it does not address other troubling activity by Iran, such as its ballistic missile program and support of terrorists.
If European officials do not agree to the new deal, Trump has said he will not renew sanctions waivers on May 12, essentially withdrawing the United States from the international accord.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), who opposed the deal after the Obama administration brokered it, pressed Pompeo, a foe of the agreement while in Congress, on the subject as he sat before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"If the president determines that you cannot modify this agreement and Iran is in compliance, what is your view as to whether America should withdraw unilaterally from the American nuclear agreement?" Cardin asked.
"I want to fix this deal," Pompeo said. "That's the objective."
"But if the agreement cannot be changed—my question is pretty simple," Cardin said. "We're running very close to a deadline on certification. What is your view? Is it better to pull out of an agreement that Iran is in compliance with if we can't fix it, or is it better to stay in the agreement?"
Pompeo said it is not a "yes or no" question because it is a hypothetical, noting the May 12 deadline to decide whether to bring back previously waived sanctions against Iran.
"It depends, clearly, if we're close … Imagine we're close to achieving the fix that the president has asked the State Department to achieve," Pompeo said. "In the event that we conclude that we can't fix this deal, that these serious shortcomings that you, Senator Cardin yourself, have identified, then the president is going to be given best advice … I will recommend to the president that we do our level best to work with our allies to achieve a better outcome and a better deal."
"Even after May 12, there's still much diplomatic work to be done," he added.