TEHRAN – Volatile U.S. President Trump agreed on Monday to certify again that Iran is complying with an international nuclear agreement that he has strongly criticized.
The planned announcement of the certification was delayed hours due to hours of arguing with his top national security advisers.
Trump has repeatedly condemned the deal brokered by President Barack Obama. The decision on Monday was the second time his administration certified Iran’s compliance, and aides said a frustrated Mr. Trump had told his security team that he would not keep doing so indefinitely.
Administration officials announced the certification on Monday evening while emphasizing that they intended to toughen enforcement of the deal, apply new sanctions on Iran for its support of what they called “terrorism” and other destabilizing activities, and negotiate with European partners to craft a broader strategy to increase pressure on Tehran.
Aides said Mr. Trump had insisted on such actions before agreeing to the consensus recommendation of his national security team.
“The president has made very clear that he thought this was a bad deal — a bad deal for the United States,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters at a briefing on Monday before the decision was made.
By law, the administration is required to notify Congress every 90 days whether Iran is living up to the deal, which limited its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of many international sanctions. With the latest deadline approaching on Monday, the issue set off a sharp debate between the president and his own team, starting last week, aides said.
At an hour-long meeting last Wednesday, all of the president’s major security advisers recommended he preserve the Iran deal. Among those who spoke out were Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson; Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to an official who described internal discussions on the condition of anonymity.