At a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee entitled, “US Defense Strategy in South Asia,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis was asked by Congressman Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) about whether Iran is currently in compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, officially titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Mattis replied in the affirmative and indicated that the Intelligence Community and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concur with his assessment.
Mattis’ statement is significant in light of President Trump’s determination to revisit the agreement with Iran, a pact he denounced in a speech before the United Nations as “an embarrassment to the United States.” President Trump has until October 15th to certify Iran’s continued compliance with the JCPOA, but has strongly suggested that he may refuse to do so.
“Secretary Mattis’ testimony today should serve as a direct rebuttal to President Trump if he tries to argue ahead of the October 15th deadline that Iran isn’t complying with the nuclear deal,” said Rep. Gallego, a Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War. “While the JCPOA certainly isn’t perfect, pulling out now will significantly increase the risk of deadly conflict in the Middle East. Simply put, failing to uphold our end of this agreement will either lead to a nuclear Iran, a war with Iran, or both. Any of these outcomes should be deeply troubling to our military and the American people.”
Video of the exchange between Rep. Gallego and Sec. Mattis can be seen here.
A full transcript is below:
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO: This question is for Secretary Mattis. In your opinion, is Iran compliant with the JCPOA?
SEC. MATTIS: I believe they fundamentally are. There have been certainly some areas where they were not, temporarily in that regard. But overall, our intelligence community believes that they have been compliant, and the IAEA also says so.
RG: As a follow up to that, Secretary Mattis, will you be recommending to President Trump that we continue working through the JCPOA to contain Iran’s nuclear capability?
MATTIS: We are working that right now. There are -- if you look -- we have two different issues. One is the JCPOA and one is what Congress has passed. And those two are distinct, but integral with each other. As you look at what the Congress has laid out – [it’s] a somewhat different definition of what's in our best interest. And therein lies, I think, the need for us to look at these distinct but integral issues the way the president has directed.
RG: Thank you Secretary Mattis. If there is going to be any change in the status of our participation in JCPOA, especially if it involves the interpretation of what we in Congress passed in terms of sanctions against Iran outside the JCPOA, will you come back and inform and talk to us? Because I believe many of us voted for Iran sanctions outside the JCPOA with the understanding that they were not going to be linked.
MATTIS: Well I think that this would probably be most appropriate by the Secretary of State, and I would follow him up here. I think that our diplomacy – the president and the Secretary of State, I think, have the lead on that. But once a decision is made – and I will be in on the decision, I'll give input, of course – I'm always willing to come up and talk in hearing or in private.