James Mattis
James Mattis Reuters

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday opined that it would be in America's national security interest to stay in the Iran nuclear deal, despite signals from President Donald Trump he may pull out of the international pact.

“Do you believe it’s in our national security interest at the present time to remain in [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA)]?” Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) asked Mattis during a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing.

“Yes, senator, I do,” Mattis replied, according to The Hill.

King did not press further on the issue with Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, who appeared before the committee to discuss Trump’s new strategy in Afghanistan.

Trump has a deadline of October 15 to certify whether Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. If he decides it is not, it could open the way for U.S. lawmakers to reimpose sanctions on Iran, leading to the potential collapse of the agreement.

While he recently confirmed that Iran is adhering to the nuclear agreement, he and other officials in the administration stressed that the President, who has been a vocal critic of the deal, still has reservations about the agreement.

During his United Nations speech several weeks ago Trump called the deal an “embarrassment.”

Dunford, who was on Capitol Hill last week for his re-appointment hearing, said at the time that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal and that the agreement has achieved its intended result of curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

He added, however, that the deal was specifically designed to only address Iran’s nuclear program and not four other threats coming from the country: its missile program, its maritime threat, its support for proxies and its cyber activities.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has several times fired back at Trump over his criticism of the deal. Last week, Zarif warned that Iran may abandon the nuclear deal if the United States decides to withdraw from it.

The Iranian Foreign Minister had also sharply criticized Trump following his UN speech, calling his remarks “shameless and ignorant”.

Zarif also said Trump’s remarks showed his lack of knowledge about Tehran’s fight against terrorism.

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