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'Calm before the storm' - is Trump about to abandon the Iran nuclear deal?

Trump must make a decision on the Iran nuclear accord by 15 October.

Trump Trump, speaking during yesterday's media briefing Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/PA Images

DONALD TRUMP LAST night made a cryptic remark about the present time possibly representing the ‘calm before the storm’, but declined to specify what specific crisis – if any – he was referring to.

Trump made the remark during a photo opportunity at the White House as he and First Lady Melania prepared to have dinner with military leaders and their spouses, following a meeting with the officers.

“You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” Trump said, according to CNN.

Reporters asked what he meant and Trump said: “It could be, the calm, the calm before the storm.”

The reporters pressed again, asking whether he was referring to Iran or the Islamic State group, CNN reported.

Source: Associated Press/YouTube

Trump replied:

We have the world’s great military people in this room, I will tell you that. And uh, we’re gonna have a great evening, thank you all for coming.

Once again, Trump was asked what he meant. He said: “You’ll find out.”

Reporters were then ushered out of the room.

While the exact focus of Trump’s remarks are unknown, US media is speculating that the president is planning to decertify the Iran nuclear accord agreed during the Obama administration, a situation he must decide upon in the coming days.

‘Have not lived up to the spirit’

Yesterday, Trump insisted that Iran has not acted in keeping with the deal to curb its nuclear programme.

“They have not lived up to the spirit of the agreement,” said Trump, as he huddled with military leaders ahead of perhaps the most consequential foreign policy decision of his young presidency.

“The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence and chaos across the Middle East,” Trump said in the Cabinet Room.

“That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions” he said.

Tillerson US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Source: Andrew Harnik/PA Images

You will be hearing about Iran very shortly.

He then went on to make his ‘calm before the storm’ remarks, but declined to elaborate.

Trump must tell Congress by 15 October whether he believes Iran is in compliance with the agreement.

He may well fly in the face of advice from some of his closest advisors, declaring Iran is not in compliance and leaving the pact’s fate in the hands of the Republican-controlled Congress.

Ahead of that deadline, several officials familiar with White House deliberations told AFP Trump has made it clear he does not want to certify Iran’s compliance. But a formal decision has yet to be made.

“The president is going to make an announcement about the decision that he’s made on a comprehensive strategy that his team supports, and we’ll do that in the coming days,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

White House officials cautioned against reports that Trump would make a speech revealing his decision next Thursday. But the decision must come by an October 15 deadline.

Intense debate

Trump has often railed against the Obama-era deal, which offered Iran massive sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

He has repeatedly promised to rip it up, but has passed up an opportunity to end sanctions relief.

Trump The media scrum around yesterday's media briefing Source: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/PA Images

Every 90 days Trump must tell Congress whether Iran is living up to its end of the bargain, something that has already caused him political pain on two occasions.

The administration has made it clear that it wants Iran to stop ballistic missile tests and stop “nefarious” behaviour across the Middle East, two issues that were not part of the agreement.

The build up to Trump’s decision has been dominated by intense debate inside the White House and fierce lobbying in Congress.

Top military advisers Defense Secretary James Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, have spoken out publicly in favour of the agreement.

European ambassadors and diplomats have been camped out on Capitol Hill, trying to argue against any punitive actions that invite Iran to decide the United States is in non-compliance.

Meanwhile, the deal’s opponents, such as senator Tom Cotton, have argued that Iran is not in compliance and sanctions and even military action should be considered.

Cotton met Trump at the White House on Thursday to make his case.

The Arkansas senator has argued that Iran is operating more advanced nuclear centrifuges than it is permitted, exceeding limits on heavy water stocks, continuing to illicitly procure nuclear and missile technology outside of approved channels and refusing to grant international inspectors access to nuclear-research and military facilities.

© – AFP, 2017

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