Defense Secretary Mattis: Staying in Iran Nuclear Deal Is in U.S. Security Interests

Mattis' statement comes less than two weeks before President Trump must decide whether to re-certify the deal

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks during a press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, September 27, 2017.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks during a press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wedne Rahmat Gul/AP

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Tuesday that remaining a party to the nuclear deal with Iran is in the United States' national security interests. Mattis, who was testifying before Congress, was asked directly by Senator Angus King (I-ME) if he thought it was in the U.S. National interest to remain in the deal, Mattis replied, "yes, I do."

Mattis' statement comes 12 days before U.S. President Donald Trump's deadline to decide whether or not to re-certify Iran's compliance with the terms of the agreement. Should the U.S. decide that Iran is violating the accord, as Trump implied in his UN speech, this in effect would decertify it and lead to possible American withdrawal from the deal. A number of recent news reports quoted Trump administration officials as saying the president was leaning in that direction.

At his speech to the UN General Assembly last month, Trump called the Iran nuclear deal "an embarrassment to the United States and I don't think you've heard the last of it, believe me." Trump continued to say Iran's behavior is in contrast to many of its neighbors, such as Saudi Arabia, who have vowed to fight terrorism.

Mattis was one of three senior administration officials - together with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster - who urged Trump to keep the U.S. committed to the nuclear deal back in August - the last time Trump had to make a decision whether to re-certify the deal.