Trump administration steps up criticism of Iran

Rex Tillerson accuses Tehran of ‘intensifying conflicts’ as nuclear deal may be revoked

US president Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Photograph: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

US president Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni at the White House in Washington on Thursday. Photograph: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

 

US president Donald Trump has accused Iran of failing to live up to the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal as he reiterated his description of the deal as “the worst agreement ever” which should never have been signed.

His comments come as the United States launched a review of the Iran nuclear deal earlier this week, prompting speculation that the US could move to revoke the landmark agreement negotiated by former president Barack Obama.

Speaking in the White House alongside Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, Mr Trump described the deal as a “terrible agreement”, accusing Iran of not living up to the terms of the deal “in spirit”.

“Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement and they have to do that,” he said.

The president also ruled out further US involvement in Libya.

“I think the United States has enough roles.” he said.

Earlier, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said that Iran is the world’s “leading state sponsor of terrorism” and responsible for “intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining US interests in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon” as well as supporting attacks against Israel.

“An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea, and take the world along with it,” Mr Tillerson said.

His comments mark the latest foreign policy intervention by the new US administration, who have set their sights on North Korea, Syria and Russia in recent weeks.

The announcement of the review of the nuclear deal was made despite Iran fulfilling its commitments under the deal according to the latest review which was announced earlier this week.

The state department is obliged to inform Congress every 90 days about Iran’s compliance with the deal. Under the groundbreaking agreement brokered by the Obama administration and allies, the US and other European and western countries lifted sanctions against Iran in exchange for the Shia state opening up its nuclear sites to inspectors and dismantling centrifuges which the Obama administration claimed will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Meanwhile, the UN’s top negotiator on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, prepared to hold talks with the Russian deputy foreign minister in Geneva on Monday without US involvement.

Earlier, Mr Trump signed an executive order announcing a review of whether steel imports into the United States could be restricted for national security reasons under a 1962 law.

At a ceremony in the Oval Office surrounded by steel executives, Mr Trump said it was a “historic day for American steel,” saying his administration would “fight for American workers and American-made steel”.

The move is the latest attempt by Mr Trump to refocus his efforts on protecting American jobs and manufacturing, a key election campaign. Earlier this week he signed a “Buy America, Hire America” order during a factory visit in Wisconsin which included a review of the H-1B visa scheme used by foreign tech workers.

In other news, the controversy over Bill O Reilly, the top-paid Fox News host who was dismissed by the network on Wednesday over sexual harassment allegations continued on Thursday amid reports he was paid a $25 million package by the network,

Mr O’Reilly’s dismissal is the latest scandal to engulf the rightwing TV channel after its long time chairman Roger Ailes was forced to resign last July over harassment allegations.