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

U.S. Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisRejoining the Iran nuclear deal would save lives of US troops, diplomats The soft but unmatched power of US foreign exchange programs The GOP senators likely to vote for Trump's conviction 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 KingProgressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats reintroduce road map to carbon neutrality by 2050 | Kerry presses oil companies to tackle climate change | Biden delays transfer of sacred lands for copper mine 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 TillersonLawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office New State Department cyber bureau stirs opposition Blinken tells State Department staff 'I have your back' MORE, meanwhile, is reportedly urging Trump to certify Iran's compliance but make changes to address U.S. concerns.