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US: Iran complying with nuclear deal but defying its spirit

The Trump administration told Congress for a second time Monday that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal and can keep enjoying sanctions relief, even as it insisted Tehran would face consequences for breaching “the spirit” of the deal.

President Donald Trump, who lambasted the 2015 pact as a candidate, gave himself more time to decide whether to scuttle it or let it stand. Instead, senior Trump administration officials sought to emphasize their deep concerns about Iran’s non-nuclear behavior and vowed that those transgressions won’t go unpunished.

During the campaign, Trump told the American Israel Political Action Committee: “My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” And he returned to that theme often during the presidential race, describing the deal as “catastrophic,” among other things.

In a shift from Trump’s previous threat to “rip up” the deal, officials said the administration was working with U.S. allies to try to fix the deal’s flaws, including the expiration of some nuclear restrictions after a decade or more. The officials also said the U.S. would slap Tehran with new sanctions penalizing it for developing ballistic missiles and other activity.

Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and “the entire administration judge that Iran is unquestionably in default of the spirit” of the agreement, one official said. That assessment carries no legal force, while Trump’s certification that Iran is technically complying clears the way for sanctions to remain lifted.

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