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US Defense Secretary indicates support for Iran nuclear deal

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that it was in America’s national interest to stay in a landmark deal clinched between Iran and six world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear programme.

Mattis’ remarks at a congressional hearing came at a time when US President Donald Trump is weighing whether to abandon the deal negotiated during the Obama administration, Xinhua reported.

“The point I would make is, if we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then clearly, we should stay with it,” Mattis testified at a Senate hearing.

“I believe, at this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something the president should consider staying with,” Mattis added.

The retired four-star general also replied “yes” when asked if it was in America’s national interest to stay in the deal that was clinched in July 2015 between Iran and the six world powers of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States after decade-long negotiations.

Mattis’ remarks were seemingly contradictory to Trump’s speech delivered last month at the UN General Assembly, who called the agreement “an embarrassment” for the United States and indicated that he may not recertify the deal at its mid-October deadline.

Iranian leaders have reacted strongly to Trump’s remarks, saying such hostile words will not intimidate the Islamic Republic.

On October 15, Trump is due to testify to Congress whether Tehran is complying with the deal and whether it remains in the U.S. interests to stick by it.

If he decides it is not, it could open the way for US lawmakers to reimpose sanctions, leading to the potential collapse of the agreement.

The Iran nuclear deal, officially known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has helped defuse the Iran nuclear crisis and bolster the international non-proliferation regime.

Earlier last month, the International Atomic Energy Agency, a UN nuclear watchdog, said that Iran was playing by the rules set out in the nuclear accord.