President Trump is expected to rail against Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard as he “decertifies” a landmark deal on the country’s nuclear program.
Uncertainty has surrounded the 2015 agreement to end sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program, with worries that Trump would completely pull out of what he has called the “worst deal ever” despite objections from his foreign policy advisers.
The commander-in-chief is set to announce his decision early Friday afternoon, though the “new Iran strategy” released in the morning moves the focus away from weapons of mass destruction and toward the regime’s other military moves in the Middle East.
American and international experts including those in the Trump administration agree that Iran has not violated the terms of the agreement but violated the “spirit of the law” with missile launches and support for Syria’s Bashar Assad.
The White House strategy on Friday blamed Tehran for “malign activities” including missile tests, which are not illegal under the agreement.
The administration of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, seen as a moderate reformer, negotiated the deal with the Obama administration and international community.
Reports have suggested that instead of pulling out of the deal, the President may “decertify” it under a separate law where Congress can debate whether to reimpose sanctions.
It is unclear if the Senate and House of Representatives, both controlled by Republicans hostile to the deal negotiated by the Obama administration, would pass those sanctions, which they could do without an opportunity for Democrats to filibuster.
The strategy laid out Friday morning by the White House does not mention certification, which the President must do every 90 days, and instead focuses on the the hardline military force controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Trump has reportedly been debating labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group, and the released strategy accuses them of trying to “subvert the international order.”
Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in 2010.
It also says that the IRGC “threatened terrorist attacks” in the U.S. in 2011, when American law enforcement stopped an alleged plot to blow up a Washington, D.C., restaurant and kill a Saudi diplomat.
The U.S. already has some sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard, though blacklisting the entire organization for terrorism would have an effect as Iran seeks to grow after other restrictions were lifted by both American and Europe.
Iranian officials this week were quoted in local media this week out against any planned terrorist designation, though it is unclear if Tehran would consider it as a violation of the 2015 deal.
IRGC head Mohammad Ali Jafari said that imposition of new sanctions would be “U.S. unilateral withdrawal” from the agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who helped negotiate the nuclear deal and is seen as a moderate opponent the hardline Revolutionary Guard, said that his country “will certainly reciprocate” against any U.S. actions.