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Mattis: Staying in Iran deal is of US national security interest

U.S. Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: First Gitmo transfer under Trump could happen 'soon' | White House says Trump has confidence in VA chief | Russia concedes 'dozens' of civilians injured in Syria clash Pentagon: First Gitmo transfer under Trump could happen 'soon' Russia concedes 'dozens' of citizens injured in clash with US forces in Syria MORE on Tuesday said it is in America's national security interest to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, even as President Trump has signaled he may pull out of the international pact. 

“Do you believe it’s in our national security interest at the present time to remain in [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA)]?” Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingLawmakers are failing in duty to respond to the American people Congress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks GOP senators float fallback plan to protect Dreamers MORE (I-Maine) asked Mattis during a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing.

“Yes, senator, I do,” Mattis replied.

King did not press further on the issue with Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, who appeared before the committee to discuss Trump’s new strategy in Afghanistan.

Mattis’ response comes as Trump faces a congressionally-mandated Oct. 15 deadline to certify whether Iran remains in compliance with the JCPA, an accord that gave Tehran billions of dollars of sanctions relief in exchange for deterring its nuclear program.

Trump has previously indicated that he may not certify Iran's compliance with the deal, which requires the administration to prove to Congress every 90 days that the nation is abiding by its requirements.  

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Trump has certified Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement twice before, but during his United Nations speech earlier this month he called the deal an “embarrassment.”

If he does not certify Iran’s compliance, Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions.

Dunford, who was on Capitol Hill last week for his re-appointment hearing, said at the time that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal and that the agreement has achieved its intended result of curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

He added, however, that the deal was specifically designed to only address Iran’s nuclear program and not four other threats coming from the country: its missile program, its maritime threat, its support for proxies and its cyber activities. 

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonFormer WH adviser: Trump will want to rejoin Paris climate pact by 2020 Why the US should lead on protecting Rohingya Muslims 'Bolivarian Diaspora' can no longer be ignored MORE, meanwhile, is reportedly urging Trump to certify Iran's compliance but make changes to address U.S. concerns.