Tillerson accuses Iran of 'alarming provocations' as US reviews policy

"An unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea, and take the world along with it", Tillerson said "The United States is keen to avoid a second piece of evidence that strategic patience is a failed approach". The deal stank, he said then.

In some of his toughest language yet, Tillerson said at a brief press conference that the Iran deal "fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran", and only delays it becoming a nuclear state.

The diplomat said the intensified language is also a shot across the bow by the USA to Iran to warn: "Just because North Korea is misbehaving, it doesn't mean we aren't still watching you".

Tillerson's notice to Congress was part of a 90-day process in which the president has to certify that Iran is complying with the nuclear accord.

Tillerson's certification also "indicates that the Trump administration has had a sort of... coming of age, to realize that this nuclear deal is not such a awful deal that President Trump was declaring during the campaign", Emad Kiyaei, a policy advisor with the American-Iranian Council, a non-profit whose mission is to provide a "sustainable dialogue and a more comprehensive understanding of US-Iran relations", told Reason.

Illustrative: Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak.

In February, Trump had described the nuclear deal with Iran as "the worst" agreement ever negotiated, calling the Islamic Republic the number one terrorist state in the world.

As part of the nuclear accord, the USA has committed to provide sanctions relief if Iran meets its obligations and the secretary of state will retain the authority to waive all nuclear-related sanctions authorized by the legislation.

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US President Donald Trump made contradictory promises during the campaign as to what his policy would be toward Iran, but a few times vowed to dismantle the accord, if elected. The United States has been looking for ways to address the threat of North Korea's nuclear program, which is significantly farther along than Iran's. "Every administration, when it doesn't know what the hell to do, reviews things", Slavin said.

As President Trump wages a rhetorical battle with North Korea over its nuclear program, his secretary of state says the nuclear deal with Iran will now be placed under review. United States sanctions, as approved by Congress, were suspended instead of revoked; they can be reimposed with the stroke of a presidential pen.

By asserting that the JCPOA does not prevent a nuclear Iran, Secretary Tillerson has chosen to ignore the vast majority of US security experts, as well as the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, China, and even Israel.

As a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, Trump was an outspoken critic of the deal but had offered conflicting opinions on whether he would try to scrap it, modify it or keep it in place with more strenuous enforcement.

Still, since taking office, Trump has stopped promising he'll gut the agreement.

"I'm glad this deal has held up to this point, and I hope it continues to hold up", said Wendy Sherman, a former undersecretary of state who was deeply involved in negotiating terms of the deal during the Obama administration.

Administration officials have made clear in recent days that they are very focused on Iran.