White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer would not say Wednesday whether President Donald Trump will follow through with his criticisms of the Iran nuclear deal or back out of it, after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced late Tuesday the administration is launching a review to determine whether suspending Iran sanctions is "vital to the national security interests of the United States".
"A comprehensive Iran policy requires we address all of the threats posed by Iran, and it is clear there are many", he said.
Tillerson lambasted the country for "supporting the Assad regime, even as it commits atrocities against its own people". Iran provides arms, financing, and training, and funnels foreign fighters into Syria.
In deed and in propaganda, Iran foments discord.
The U.S. has supported Saudi Arabia in a bombing campaign against the rebels in Yemen's civil war. Interdictions by Emirati forces in Yemen and coalition forces in the Arabian Sea have revealed a complex Iranian network to arm and equip the Houthis.
Tillerson's notice to Congress was part of a 90-day process in which the president has to certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear accord.
Iran has conducted cyber-attacks against the United States and our Gulf partners.
"Whether it be assassination attempts, support of weapons of mass destruction, [or] deploying destabilizing militias, Iran spends its treasure and time disrupting peace", he said.
Iran boasts one of the worst human rights record in the world, routinely jailing political opponents.
Iran arbitrarily detains foreigners, including USA citizens, on false charges. Otherwise, Iran can just shop elsewhere.
And a nuclear-armed Iran could be very, very bad.
"It is their habit to unsettle people and nations", Tillerson said.
U.S. officials have criticized Iran for its destabilizing activities in the Middle East, including ballistic missile tests.
Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University, said Trump may be allowing himself to argue in the future that existing deals can be improved without being totally discarded.
The deal between Iran and major global powers including the United States imposed restrictions on Tehran's nuclear activities in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. From the 2016 presidential campaign onward, the Democrats' criticisms of Trump have been focused centrally on foreign policy and have come from the right, particularly over concern that the Trump administration would prove "too soft" on Russian Federation, and, by extension, Iran, which has allied itself with Russian Federation in Syria.
In February, his since ousted national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn marched into a White House briefing to ominously announce that he was putting "Iran on notice", implying possible U.S. military retaliation for the Iranian military's testing of non-nuclear missiles, which is not barred by the nuclear agreement.
MODERATOR: We'll take a few questions.
Tillerson spoke after the State Department certified to Congress that Iran is now in compliance with its obligations under the 2015 deal.
And the secretary of state raised the stakes by bringing in comparisons to North Korea.
"It may come back with a finding of reimposing certain USA sanctions that have been waived", he said.
"Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a position on Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that amounts to an extreme departure from that of our traditional allies, other world powers, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)".
"So we are going to review completely the JCPOA itself".