US Defense Secretary Mattis suggests sticking with Iran nuclear deal

Courtesy MGN

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Tuesday that he believes it is in U.S national security interest to remain in the Iran nuclear agreement despite repeated hints from President Donald Trump that he is inclined to scrap the deal.

President Donald Trump's defense secretary told Congress on Wednesday that it is in America's interests to preserve its nuclear accord with Iran, despite his boss' assertion last month that the worldwide accord is an "embarrassment" to the United States.

"It is clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups", Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mattis said US President Donald Trump's new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia has been welcomed nearly uniformly by leaders in the region as well as the 39 countries contributing troops to the NATO-led campaign.

McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, declared that it was "bizarre" that Mattis and Dunford did not submit written testimony before the hearing started.

The nation's top military officer says the thousands of additional USA troops President Donald Trump has ordered to Afghanistan will cost just over $1 billion a year.

"The fighting will continue to be carried out by our Afghan partners", he said, "but our advisers will accompany tactical units to advise and bring North Atlantic Treaty Organisation fire support to bear when needed".

"We want to be your partners, but this committee will not be a rubber stamp for any policy or president".

He added that the Afghan forces are becoming bolder in combat because they know US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces are using airpower to strike the Taliban and other militants on "the high ground". We must be well-informed. Trump announced August 21 that he would continue USA involvement in the war in Afghanistan and send a few thousand more troops, even though his initial instinct told him not to do so.


Last month, the Pentagon, after long insisting that 8,400 troops were deployed in Afghanistan, admitted that it actually has about 11,000 troops there.

On Friday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged Europe to defy USA sanctions if Trump's administration abandons the JCPOA.

The Trump administration has twice so far certified Iran's compliance with the deal, but if he refuses to do that for a third time, then the Republican-controlled Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions waived under the deal.

Sen. Angus King of ME asked Mattis during a congressional hearing if he thinks it's in the national security interests of the United States to stay a part of the global accord.

Having heavyweights like Mattis weighing in to support the deal could give Republican senators more reason to stand in disagreement with president. Denying certification could lead the U.S.to reintroduce sanctions, which in turn could lead Iran to walk away from the deal or restart previously curtailed nuclear activities.

"That is embedded in the revised strategy", he said.

Recently, Mattis visited New Delhi and said India and the United States "resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge" of terrorism.

Asked to answer "yes" or "no" whether it was in the U.S. national security interest to remain in the deal, Mattis, a career hawk on Iran, answered bluntly: "Yes, I do".

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