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Trump Expected To Detail Tougher Line On Iran's Nuclear Program


We have a partial picture this morning of what President Trump intends to do with the Iran nuclear deal. It's a deal the president has many times denounced and which his advisers consider to be in the U.S. national interest - a bit of a conflict there. The president faces a deadline to certify whether Iran is complying. And he is widely expected to say today that Iran is not that, he will not certify the deal. The next step is up to Congress, but rather than undo the deal, the White House and its allies in Congress are pushing for legislation that would largely seek to extend many of the deal's terms.

Let's discuss this with Republican Congressman Scott Perry, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, who opposed the deal and is on the phone from Wormleysburg, Pa. Congressman, good morning.

SCOTT PERRY: Good morning, sir. How are you?

INSKEEP: I'm OK. So the White House hasn't released every detail but they've released some. It looks like the president doesn't back out of the Iran nuclear deal here. He does ask you, Congress, to tighten it in some ways and extend the terms for more years. Is that good enough?

PERRY: Well, it certainly, I think, sends a message to Iran and to the rest of the world that the president who is required under the agreement to certify or de-certify on a regular basis, that there is a problem and that Iran is in material breach of the agreement. And so it gives us time to decide, well, is that material breach enough for sanctions or further action? Or do we just continue to watch and see how far they go?

And so that's, I think, the position that we're in right now, understanding that the agreement is a political commitment. And the president actually isn't withdrawing from it at this time. So it kind of puts Iran on notice and the rest of the world, including people that are doing business with Iran, that...

INSKEEP: But it's a hard sell to say that Iran is breaching the agreement when inspectors are in there and it's widely said by the people who analyzed this that Iran is not breaking the agreement. The real issue here is you don't like the terms, right?

PERRY: Well, no, not necessarily. It - while it might be a hard sell, this - Iran knows - and so did North Korea, by the way. They know that this is an issue of incremental things, where you can kind of get away with things and that you can argue on the margin. So, you know, the heavy water out - the production of heavy water outside of the agreement, so that's a breach. The production of centrifuges is a breach.

And so the president, you know, he's forced to either choose to say, well, that's not so bad or just lie about it and say, well, they're not in material breach. So they are in material breach, number one. And number two, the deal even with the last administration that negotiated this is based on verification. And they said it's not based on trust, nor should it be. And we all know or should know that there is no inspection allowed and there has been no inspection of military sites.

INSKEEP: There are some places that are off-limits, you're correct about that. I want to understand what you would do in Congress, presuming that the president, as we expect, kicks it to Congress for Congress to do something. There is this legislative framework that is now on the table from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee which describes extending the terms of the deal unilaterally, which I guess wouldn't violate the nuclear deal, it would just say there'll be sanctions if Iran later on violates the terms of the deal that would otherwise expire but also seems to impose new restrictions. If it's important to you that the deal is kept - you want Iran to keep the deal - would you commit that any legislation you pass will also abide by the American terms of this deal?

PERRY: Well, I think the American terms of the deal quite honestly have to be dramatically changed. I mean, from my viewpoint, America - the United States and the free world - got almost nothing. And Iran immediately got sanctions relief and hundreds of billion - a hundred billion dollars or something like that.

INSKEEP: Does that mean you pass legislation that ends the deal then, in effect?

PERRY: Well, look. I think that's a negotiation, Steve. I think that Iran know they - knew they had a really sweet deal. And they're happy to abide by it where they can. But let's be clear here as well. Iran is a known - look, they don't honor the commitments they make, they never have. And everybody, including the panel that I was in front of just this week - a panel of experts said that while Iran said that their intentions were always for peaceful use of nuclear technology, power production, medicine and so forth, every single person on the panel, including people that agreed with the deal and wanted us to stay in it, acknowledges that Iran obviously desperately seeks nuclear weapons.

INSKEEP: In just about 10 seconds, Congressman, will the United States honor the terms of this deal?

PERRY: Well, the United States has honored the terms of the deal, but the new president, I think, and many Americans believe that this was a terrible deal for the United States and it needs to be renegotiated. And this is the first step.

INSKEEP: Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, thanks. Pleasure talking with you.

PERRY: Thank you, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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