Last week the State Department certified that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal. House speaker Paul Ryan received a letter to certify that the Islamic Republic of Iran is in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
During his campaign, Trump had called it the "worst deal ever negotiated" and promised to “tear it up” if he made it to the White House.
Trump supporters and others who opposed the nuclear are left wondering.
In an article for THE WEEKLY STANDARD, Lee Smith asks, “Was the president just bluffing? Did he plan all along to leave the deal in place and take his chances that Iran wouldn't go nuclear on his watch?”
Rumors in Washington say that Trump’s administration is split into rival camps over Iranian policy.
The administration has launched a larger, more comprehensive review of Iran policy. An administration official claims, "it is one of the major projects that the government is now embarked on, involving hundreds, maybe thousands of people."
Numerous federal agencies are involved, including law enforcement and the intelligence community, as well as the State Department and various embassies around the world. Joining them is the Treasury Department, Justice, and the Pentagon. The process itself is being managed by National Security Council staff.
The question remains, whether or not Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal?
David Albright, founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, said last week, "Iran is either violating the deal, it's inconsistent with the deal, or it's just pushing the envelope.”
Critics of the deal, who want stronger action taken quicker, see certifying that Iran is in compliance as a delay.
Smith writes, “It does not signal, the Trump official told me, that this White House has concluded the JCPOA serves American interests. Rather, certification is a placeholder during the review process. It is buying time for the administration to muster its resources while it plans how to move forward on Iran. The Iranians might also see it as an opportunity—to get their act together lest they have to be reminded they are no longer dealing with President Obama.”
In the last several weeks, the Trump White House has put several counties on notice. A strong message to North Korea was delivered by Vice President Mike Pence, who warned that the era of "strategic patience" is over. According to Smith, Iran cooperates with North Korea on nuclear and ballistic missile technology. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had strong words for Iran's ally in Syria, Russia. He said that Russia was either "incompetent" in failing to stop Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons or "complicit." In a stunning move, Trump ordered a missile strike on the Syrian airfield that Assad used to launch the sarin attack that killed at least 85 people.
Trump seems unconcerned over upsetting Tehran. The Obama administration looked to Iran as a potential partner in regional stability, to counterbalance to Saudi Arabia and Israel, but not the Trump team, who view Iran as a problem, and the nuclear program as part of that problem.
"We have to look at Iran in a very comprehensive way in terms of the threat it poses in all areas of the region and the world,” Rex Tillerson said last week.
Much of the Iran policy review will rely on resources such as the Treasury, who might possibly designate companies affiliated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, freezing assets and making it hard for other countries to do business with the designated firms.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said, ”Under the Obama administration, the White House prevented Treasury from designating IRGC entities. With the new administration, the pipeline is full and robust." The Foundation for Defense of Democracies provided Treasury with a database of 800 IRGC companies yet to be designated.
Smith concludes, “Tehran has no doubt gotten the message. Whether that matters to a regime held together for nearly 40 years only by its anti-American animus is another question entirely.”