Week ahead in defense: Spending bill, Yemen vote top agenda
Top general says Iran complying with nuclear deal
The top general in the U.S. military said Tuesday that Iran is complying with a landmark nuclear deal and that the agreement has achieved its intended result of curbing Iran's nuclear program.
But Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chief of staff, added that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has done nothing to deter Iran from its other malign activities.
"The briefings I have received indicate that Iran is adhering to its [plan of action] obligations," Dunford wrote in answers to policy questions in advance of his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing to serve a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
"The [plan] has delayed Iran's development of nuclear weapons," he wrote. "Iran has not changed its malign activity in the region since [the plan of action] was signed."
Asked during the hearing by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to elaborate, Dunford said the deal was specifically designed to address only Iran's nuclear program and not the other four threats he sees emanating from Iran: its missile program, its maritime threat, its support for proxies and its cyber activities.
Dunford agreed with Reed that Iran is still "very aggressively" making pursuits those areas.
"We see a physical manifestation of that in Yemen, we see it in Iraq, we see it in Lebanon, we see it in Syria," he said.
President Trump faces an Oct. 15 deadline to tell Congress whether Iran remains in compliance with the 2015 deal, which provided Tehran with billions of dollars of sanctions relief in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program.
If Trump chooses not the recertify Iran's compliance, Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions.
Trump has certified Iran's compliance with the deal both times the congressionally mandated deadline has arisen during his presidency. But he's signaled in recent weeks that won't be the case for the third time.
In his speech to the United Nations last week, Trump called the deal an "embarrassment to the United States."
"I don't think you have heard the last of it," he added
Trump proceeded to tell reporters the next day that he's made a decision on the nuclear deal but refused to say what it is.
On Tuesday, asked later in the hearing by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) whether he's advised Trump to recertify compliance, Dunford said he would prefer to keep his advice private until Trump announces his decision.
Dunford also said it would "make sense to him" that withdrawing from the deal would have ripple effects on the North Korea crisis.
"It makes sense to me that our holding up agreements that we have signed, unless there's a material breach, would have an impact on others' willingness to sign agreements," Dunford said in response to Reed.
Further asked by Reed whether Iran would step up its malign activities even more if the United States scraps the nuclear deal and stretch an already stressed U.S. military thinner, Dunford said those activities always concern the military.
"We watch every day, and this is even in addition to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] issue, just our relationship with Iran, we watch every day for indicators that either Iranian-backed militia forces or Iranian maritime forces would pose a threat to the force," he said. "We have postured the force to deal with those threats. We watch the intelligence carefully to make sure our posture every day is in the context of the current threat."