WASHINGTON - The U.S. government certified again Monday that Iran is complying with the 2015 international deal on its nuclear program, an agreement that President Donald Trump has called "the worst deal ever negotiated."
Under U.S. law, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days of Iran's compliance.
A senior administration official said that while Iran is technically meeting the terms of the agreement, it is "unquestionably in default of the spirit of the agreement," adding that the Trump administration is working with its allies to more strictly enforce the deal going forward.
The senior official told reporters the White House believes Iran remains one of the most dangerous governments, and cited as evidence Tehran's support for terrorism, continuing hostility to Israel, cyberattacks against the United States and numerous human rights abuses.
"These activities seriously undermine the intent of the agreement," the official said.
Another senior administration official said the Trump administration is working to address flaws in the agreement, of "which there are many," and criticized enforcement of the deal by the administration of former President Barack Obama.
White House officials emphasized that the administration's stance toward the nuclear deal remains under review.
"The president has made very clear his desire to fix the many flaws in the deal... His commitment to fixing those flaws remains steadfast," said one senior official.
The nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was agreed to in 2015 following negotiations between Iran and a group that included the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany.
Under terms of the agreement, Iran gained relief from sanctions targeting its nuclear activity in response to allegations it was working to develop nuclear weapons. Iran has said its nuclear program was aimed only at peaceful purposes.
In exchange for the sanctions relief, Iran agreed to take a number of steps to limit its nuclear program and affirmed that it would under no circumstances "seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons."
The agreement allows Iran to conduct only low-level uranium enrichment, requires that all spent fuel from its nuclear reactors must be sent abroad for reprocessing, and subjects Iranian facilities to international monitoring. These restrictions are aimed at ensuring that Iran cannot acquire weapons-grade uranium through its own reprocessing efforts.
Iran also agreed to convert two of its nuclear sites suspected of involvement in weapons development into facilities used for peaceful research.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Monday ahead of the U.S. announcement that Iran has received "contradictory signals" from the Trump administration. Zarif said he has not spoken with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but that the "possibilities for engagement with regard to the nuclear deal" have always been open.
As part of the agreement, Iran and the group of six world powers set up a joint commission to monitor the implementation of the deal and address complaints from either side. Representatives are due to meet Friday in Vienna.