U.S. President Donald Trump has accused Iran of "not living up to the spirit" of its nuclear agreement with world powers and said the United States would soon have a response.
At a White House news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on April 20, Trump repeated his criticism that "it was a terrible agreement...as bad as I've ever seen negotiated."
"Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement, and they have to do that," he said. "We're analyzing it very, very carefully and will have something to say about it in the not-too-distant future."
Trump's comments came amid a series of highly critical remarks from top administration officials and rebuttals from Tehran over the 2015 deal, which requires Iran to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief from Western powers.
Just a day ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that the deal had failed to achieve its goal of stopping Iran from developing nuclear arms -- only postponed it.
Despite these criticisms, Tillerson certified on April 19 that Iran was fulfilling its side of the agreement and extended sanctions relief provided by the United States.
Tillerson's certification prompted Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to say on April 20 that "worn-out U.S. accusations can't mask its admission of Iran's compliance" with the nuclear deal.
With the administration acknowledging that Iran is -- at least technically -- adhering to the deal, it was unclear what Trump meant when he said Iran is "doing a tremendous disservice to the agreement" by not complying with the "spirit" of the accord.
Trump did not explain his remarks. But the United States has repeatedly clashed with Iran over its ballistic-missile tests, with U.S. officials saying that they violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the deal.
Iran has also accused the United States of not keeping to the spirit of the nuclear agreement by maintaining sanctions against Iran over the ballistic-missile tests and alleged human rights abuses.
On April 20 at the United Nations, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, added to the Trump administration's barrage of criticism of Iran, calling Tehran the "chief culprit" in conflicts in the Middle East and urging the UN to make dealing with Iran a "priority."
Speaking at an open meeting of the UN Security Council, which Haley is chairing this month, she blamed Iran for training "deadly militias" that it is using to "destabilize" countries in conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
"For decades, they have committed terrorist acts across the region," Haley said, adding that Iran has worked with allied Lebanese Hizballah militias to stir conflict.
"Iran and Hizballah conspired together to destabilize the Middle East," she said. "They prop up [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad's brutality."
"Iran is using Hizballah to advance its regional aspirations," she said. "They are working together to expand extremist ideologies in the Middle East. This is a threat that should be dominating our discussion at this Security Council."
Iranian Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo fired back at what he called the "unsubstantiated" U.S. charges, saying the United States is waging a "misleading propaganda campaign" against his country.
Khoshroo accused the United States and Israel of seeking "to remove the Palestinian issue that is central to all the conflicts in the Middle East from these open debates."
Russia's Deputy UN ambassador Petr Iliichev also defended Iran, questioning why Haley in circulating a "concept note" for the meeting on the Middle East did not mention the Palestinian question or threats from extremist groups like the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda's ally, Nusra Front, both of which have caused destruction and suffering in Syria and Iraq.
Instead, Iliichev said, "we're invited to consider as terrorists those who are fighting these groups," he said. Iranian-backed militias have played a major role in fighting the Islamic State both in Syria and Iraq.
With reporting by AP, AFP and Reuters