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Mattis: No Decision Yet on US Withdrawal From Iran Deal


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, testifies with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, left, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, April 26, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says there has been no decision made on any U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement but Washington is working with its European allies to see if there are ways to improve the pact.

"The decision has not been made whether we can repair it enough to stay in it, or if the president is going to decide to withdraw from it," Mattis told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday.

He said the U.S. recognizes the nuclear pact was an "imperfect arms control agreement." "It is written almost with the assumption that Iran would try to cheat. So the verification, what is in there, is actually pretty robust," Mattis said. "Whether or not that is sufficient, I think that is a valid question."

French President Emmanuel Macron, who just wrapped up a U.S. visit, said Wednesday he believes U.S. President Donald Trump will pull the United States out of the nuclear agreement.

"I don't know what the American decision will be but the rational analysis of all [of] President Trump's statements does not lead me to believe that he will do everything to stay in the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal)," Macron told a news conference at the conclusion of his three-day state visit.

Trump faces a May 12 deadline on whether to reimpose some of the economic sanctions that were lifted on Iran in exchange for limits on the country's nuclear development, as part of the 2015 deal.

Asked whether such a decision would indicate a personal failure, Macron said his role was not to convince Trump to "walk away from campaign commitments, but rather to prove that the agreement makes sense."

On Wednesday, Macron urged U.S. lawmakers to ensure the United States does not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 25, 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 25, 2018.

"Iran shall never possess nuclear weapons, not in five years, not in 10 years, never," Macron declared in a ringing, 49-minute speech to both chambers of the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. president has called the agreement "insane" and "ridiculous" and has threatened to withdraw from it.

Instead Macron, as he did in talks with Trump on Tuesday, called for negotiations for a new agreement with Iran over Tehran's ballistic missile tests and military involvement in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, called on Trump Thursday to "change the course" on the current nuclear deal with Iran, saying the agreement's expiration date must be extended or eliminated, and changes implemented in order to end "Iran's role as the largest state-sponsor of terrorism in the world."

"Iran must end the development and testing of its advanced ballistic missile program," Danon told the U.N. Security Council. "We must increase monitoring and oversight of Iran's finances, which have grown significantly since the JCPOA released the sanctions."

Iran was also a focus of talks later in the day, when Defense Secretary Mattis met with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Pentagon.

Mattis said the U.S. and Israeli militaries have never worked as closely together as they do now, calling the cooperation critical to making a stable and secure Middle East a reality and stopping Iran from spreading its malign influence.

And when asked by reporters about weapons shipments from Iran to Syria and whether they were intended for striking Israel, Mattis replied, "I can't think of any other purpose for them right now."

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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