President Donald Trump finds himself under immense pressure as he considers de-certifying the international nuclear deal with Iran, a move that would ignore warnings from inside and outside his administration that to do so would risk undermining US credibility.
Trump is expected to unveil a broad strategy on confronting Iran this week, likely today. There was always the chance he could still have a last-minute change of heart and certify Iran's compliance with the 2015 accord, which he has called an "embarrassment" and the "worst deal ever negotiated."
Senior US officials, European allies and prominent US lawmakers have told Trump that refusing to certify the deal would leave the US isolated, concede the diplomatic high ground to Tehran, and ultimately risk the unraveling of the agreement. Iran has said it may exit the deal if the US withdraws.
Signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the European Union and Iran, the deal relieved sanctions on Tehran in exchange for curbing its disputed nuclear program.
The official said Trump has been telling foreign leaders and US lawmakers that his refusal to certify the Iran deal would not blow it up.
De-certifying would not withdraw the United States from the deal but it would give the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose the sanctions on Tehran that were suspended under the agreement.
White House officials said Trump is expected to announce a broad, more confrontational policy toward Iran directed at curbing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and financial and military support for Hezbollah and other extremist groups.
Trump has said he believes the nuclear deal is too generous toward Iran and would not stop it from trying to develop a nuclear weapon. He has criticized the agreement's "sunset clauses," under which some restrictions on Iran's nuclear program would expire over time. He also wants to toughen language on ballistic missiles and inspections. IAEA says Iran is complying with the agreement.
European officials have categorically ruled out renegotiating the deal, but have said they share Trump's concerns over Iran's destabilizing influence in the Middle East.
One US official involved in administration said that declining to certify Iran's compliance would probably leave all of the parties to the deal on one side and the United States on the other.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron both spoke to Trump this week to express their concerns about the potential decision not to recertify the Iran deal.
Trump allies who oppose the deal have watched the president closely to see if he might buckle under pressure.
"He's not going to re-certify," said Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump national security aide. "I'm not worried. His gut instinct is absolutely right."