Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Tillerson slams Iran as destabilizing force in Middle East

Things are a little more tense when it comes to whether Trump will fulfill his pledge to get rid of the Iran nuclear weapons deal that was worked out under the administration of President Barack Obama.

As he often had during the president campaign, Trump ripped into the deal struck by Iran, the USA and other world powers in 2015 and said "it shouldn't have been signed".

Tillerson also appeared to sketch out the terms of such diplomatic engagement, suggesting that the US would not offer aid for concessions from North Korea as has been done in the past.

Proponents of the deal have long acknowledged it doesn't address concerns about Iran's non-nuclear behavior, such as its ballistic missile program or support for the Houthis.

The day before, Tillerson - required by law to report regularly to Congress on Tehran's adherence to the deal - had affirmed that Iran is abiding to the pact curbing its nuclear program.

- The committed to a strong Europe, though he didn't say directly whether he prefers that the European Union stay intact. "We're in a role everywhere, so I do not see that".

- It's possible he may soon be able to strike deals with Congress on both health care and funding legislation to head off a government shutdown.

But after Trump came to the White House in January, the Israel-US ties have witnessed a remarkable upswing, with Trump and Netanyahu jointly criticising Iran at a presser in February in the US.

"Iran is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining USA interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon", Tillerson explained.

Trump, in a news conference with the visiting Italian premier, didn't telegraph whether he would ultimately decide to keep the the deal or not, though he called it "terrible agreement" that was poorly negotiated.

"Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement, and they have to do that, they have to do that", the president said.

The agreement exchanged limits on Iran's nuclear program to thwart its ability to create a nuclear weapon with the lifting of crippling worldwide economic and oil sanctions.

"It would more isolate the United States than it would isolate Iran", he said, noting that other world powers are party to the deal. "Buying off a power for a short period of time" is not a prudent way to deal with Iran.

Iran has yet to comment on the Trump administration's latest round of criticism, but Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has warned that Tehran would retaliate if the United States breached the nuclear agreement. The White House will not, he said, adopt President Obama's failed approach of "strategic patience". "None of the other countries would be up for that".

Trump didn't specifically weigh in on the French election, nor would he say outright whether he supported countries staying in the EU.

Like the diplomats, Kirby said the administration may be looking for political cover.

"I can't answer your question on stability", he said. The Trump administration has repeatedly said that it is hoping that China will do for Mr. Trump what it has failed to do for past presidents - force concessions from Pyongyang.

Over the past several weeks, the unhinged commander-in-chief has authorized bombings in two countries without any follow-up plan; he's provoked North Korea and brought the US closer to a nuclear war; he's lost track of an American aircraft carrier.

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