Trump lets Iran deal live, but signals he may not for long

Published 8:17 am Wednesday, July 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was eager to declare Iran in breach of the nuclear deal but was talked out of it by national security aides who rushed to the Oval Office to persuade him as a midnight deadline approached, administration officials say.

Trump agreed Monday night to let the issue go, but only for a few more months — and only after last-minute changes to distance Trump further from the deal.

Rather than say, as planned, that Iran was living up to its end of the deal, Trump’s aides found a way to let the deal continue for now without technically confirming that Iran is complying. The administration followed up the announcement with new, non-nuclear sanctions on Iranians on Tuesday to show Trump is indeed serious about confronting Tehran.

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The compromise, relayed to Congress in the final few hours before the deadline, lets Iran continue enjoying relief — for now — from nuclear sanctions lifted as part of the 2015 deal. It also gives Trump some cover to declare publicly that Iran is violating “the spirit” of the deal, preserving a potent argument should he ultimately decide to exit the pact.

The deadline comes up again in three months. Given Trump’s strong reluctance to certify Iran’s compliance, it’s highly unlikely he will agree to do it again, officials and others familiar with Trump’s Iran policy said. The individuals weren’t authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.