Top Republican to Trump: Stay in Iran deal

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President Donald Trump (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The top Republican and Democrat on the House foreign affairs committee said Wednesday that the Trump administration should not blow up the Iran nuclear deal and cautioned that withholding certification but remaining in the agreement could raise serious questions about US credibility from both allies and adversaries.

President Donald Trump plans to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal later this week, declaring the Obama-era pact not in US interests and launching a congressional review period on the accord, according to two senior US officials.

That decision would stop short of completely scrapping the Iran deal, which Trump railed against on the campaign trail.

But committee Chairman Ed Royce said Wednesday that he believes it is in US national security interest to “enforce the hell” out of the Iran nuclear deal — imploring President Donald Trump to clearly explain the facts behind whatever decision he makes regarding the deal’s certification this week.

“As flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it,” the California Republican said while speaking at a hearing on how to best counter threats posed by Iran.

“Let’s work with allies to make certain that international inspectors have better access to possible nuclear sites, and we should address the fundamental sunset shortcoming, as our allies have recognized.”

Royce made similar comments in an interview on CNN’s “The Lead” last month, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper: “I think we should enforce the hell out of the agreement and thereby force compliance on the part of Iran.”

Like Royce, Rep. Eliot Engel — the committee’s top Democrat — noted that he initially opposed the Iran deal before it was signed in 2015 but reiterated the need for the US to remain in the agreement and certify Iran’s compliance.

“Withholding certification would be a distraction from the real issues … and it’s playing with fire,” Engel said.

Withholding certification is the first step toward withdrawing from the deal, that’s how countries around the world will see it and how Iran will see it, he added.

Royce stopped short of calling on the Trump administration to certify Iran’s compliance but did warn that the President must clearly explain his decision once its unveiled.

“Later this week, the President will make a legislatively mandated decision on certification of the nuclear deal. Whatever he decides, it is critical that the President lay out the facts. He should explain what his decision means, and what it doesn’t,” Royce said.

“And then, I hope — as I have tried to do here today — the President will define a responsible path forward to confront the full range of threats posed by Iran.”

Trump said last week that Iran has not “lived up” to the spirit of the deal.

Speaking ahead of a dinner with military officers, Trump said it was imperative Iran not obtain nuclear weapons and that Tehran was a supporter of terror and violence.

Trump will spell out a broader strategy for confronting Iran, including its ballistic missile program and support for terror networks in the Middle East, as he unveils his decision on the Iran deal, according to one senior US official. The official didn’t specify what precise steps he may take.