Trump considering more hawkish approach to Iran — report

Alexander Fulbright — Times of Israel Sept 12, 2017

Iran sanctionsUS President Donald Trump is reportedly considering adopting a more forceful approach to counter Iran’s military activities that would include further limiting the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, as well as its support for terror groups.

Among the measures being weighed are the interception of armaments destined for Iran’s proxies, including the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reported Tuesday, quoting unnamed current and former US officials.

Other steps being considered are going after Iranian cyber spying, countering Iran’s efforts to stir up unrest among Bahrain’s Shiite majority and more aggressively reacting to the harassment of US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp.

“I would call it a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilization in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen,” a US official said.

The report, which said the proposal could be unveiled publicly before the end of the month, did not detail how specifically the US would seek to counter these activities.

The proposal, which was drawn up by Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, among others, was presented to Trump during a meeting of the National Security Council last week, according to Reuters.

Not included in the proposal were plans to limit Iran’s military activities in Syria due to concerns it would distract from the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State terror group.

An official quoted in the report said that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, both of which are fighting in Syria on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad, have been “very helpful” in rolling back IS’s territorial gains in Syria.

Despite Washington’s priority of defeating IS, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Iran is seeking to fill the void left by the terror group’s defeat in order to entrench itself militarily in Syria, which Israel argues would give the Islamic Republic an additional front from which to threaten the Jewish state.

The report came amid growing speculation that Trump will declare Iran to not be in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal signed under his predecessor Barack Obama when he must certify to Congress in October whether Iran is abiding by the pact.

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Trump called the nuclear accord “the worst deal ever” and vowed to tear up the deal upon taking office. Trump has since however moderated his tone, although he said last month Iran is “not in compliance with the agreement” and said he did not believe he would again declare Iran to be in compliance with the deal come October.

Last week, US Ambassador to the US Nikki Haley strongly criticized the “flawed” nuclear agreement in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, during which she laid out how the US could continue to be a party to the accord while declaring Iran not to be in compliance the agreement.

While not explicitly calling for Trump to declare Iran in violation of the deal, Haley said pronouncing the Islamic Republic to not be in compliance with the agreement under the Iran review act would allow the US to better address “the big picture” of Iran’s behavior.

With the increasing signs the Trump administration is leaning toward pronouncing Iran to be in violation of the nuclear agreement, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry warned the US it would face consequences if it was in “defiance” of the accord while emphasizing that Iran would not be first to breach the deal.

“Survival of the nuclear deal depends on all parties’ compliance with their undertakings and in case of any defiance by a country in the implementation of its undertakings, it should pay a heavy compensation and price,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Bahram Qassemi as saying Monday.

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