20 Apr 2017

US to look at 'all of the threats posed by Iran'

1:53 pm on 20 April 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has accused Iran of 'alarming ongoing provocations' aimed at destabilising the Middle East.

Donald Trump repeatedly criticised the Iran nuclear deal during his presidential campaign

Donald Trump repeatedly criticised the Iran nuclear deal during his presidential campaign Photo: AFP

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson revealed today US President Donald has ordered a review of the deal brokered by the Obama administration between Iran and six other nations.

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

His tough words matched those of US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who said in a visit to Saudi Arabia that Iran's destabilising influence would have to be overcome to end the conflict in Yemen.

In the deal, countries were to lift trade sanctions against Iran, in exchange for the country halting development on its nuclear programme.

Mr Tillerson acknowledged the Iranians had met the terms of the 2015 deal, but raised concerns about the country as a "state sponsor of terrorism".

Mr Trump has described the landmark agreement as the "worst deal ever".

However, his predecessor Barack Obama argued the deal, between Iran and six world powers including China, Russia and the UK, was the best way to prevent Iran getting a nuclear weapon.

Sanctions were lifted after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) certified it had restricted its sensitive nuclear activities.

In January - a year on from the deal coming into force - Mr Obama noted that, as promised, Iran had reduced its uranium stockpile by 98 percent. It has also removed two-thirds of its centrifuges, which can be used in uranium enrichment.

But in a statement, Mr Tillerson said: "President Donald J Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran ... is vital to the national security interests of the United States.

"It remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods."

Mr Tillerson said the Iran review would not only look at Tehran's compliance with the nuclear deal but also its actions in the Middle East.

Mr Tillerson accused Iran of undermining US interests in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

"A comprehensive Iran policy requires we address all of the threats posed by Iran, and it is clear there are many," he said.

Iran has yet to comment on the Trump administration's review, but Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei warned in November that Tehran would retaliate if the United States breached the nuclear agreement.

Tillerson said one of the mistakes in the way the agreement was put together was that it ignored all the other serious threats Iran posed outside of its nuclear program.

"That is why we have to look at Iran in a very comprehensive way in terms of the threat it poses in all areas of the region and the world," he added.

"This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face from North Korea," Tillerson said of the nuclear deal.

- BBC / Reuters

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs