Trump's defense chief: 'I stand by this Iran strategy'

Trump's defense chief: 'I stand by this Iran strategy'
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Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences MORE said Friday he supports President Trump's newly unveiled strategy on Iran following the president's decision not to certify Tehran's compliance with an Obama-era nuclear accord.

“I give advice to the president. He was elected by the American people and I stand by this Iran strategy as it came out today,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

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Mattis was among several top Trump officials who appeared at odds with the president's view on the Iran deal ahead of the announcement Friday.

The Defense chief said earlier in the month that it was in America's national security interest to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump, however, declared Friday at the White House that Iran “has committed multiple violations of the agreement" and the U.S. “cannot and will not make this certification.”

The president stopped short of withdrawing from the deal reached between the U.S., Iran and five other world powers. But Trump vowed to confront Tehran on a number of other issues, from its ballistic-missile tests to its support for groups such as Hezbollah.

Mattis said that his first priority will now be to confer with allies in the Middle East and elsewhere to gauge views on Iran's “misbehavior.”

The retired Marine Corps general said the U.S. intends to “dissuade” Iran from shipping arms to rebel groups by sharing intelligence with allies and partners.

Mattis earlier said he had not yet seen any provocative actions from Iran and there had been no change in U.S. military posture following Trump’s speech in which he outlined his plans for the Tehran, Reuters reported.

“With the Iranians destabilizing record from Lebanon to Syria, from Yemen to Afghanistan, of course we watch for this,” Mattis told reporters while returning from a trip to Florida. “Right now we are not changing our posture.”

The Pentagon also said in a statement that it is “identifying new areas where we will work with allies to put pressure on the Iranian regime, neutralize its destabilizing influences and constrain its aggressive power projection, particularly its support for terrorist groups and militants."