WASHINGTON― The head of U.S. Central Command expressed his support for the Iran nuclear deal Tuesday while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, arguing that the deal is important to curtail developments in Iran’s nuclear program.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel’s opinion on the deal is in stark contrast with President Donald Trump’s, who on the campaign trail referred to the agreement as the worst deal ever negotiated by the United States, Reuters reported.
The Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, “addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran, so if the JCPOA goes away then we will have to have another way to deal with their nuclear weapons program,” Votel said.
If the U.S. was to jettison itself from the agreement, “there would be some concern, I think, about how we intended to address [the Iranian nuclear] threat if it was not being addressed through the JCPOA,” Votel said.
“Our approach is one of assuring our partners [and] maintaining deterrent capabilities in the region,” he added.
If the agreement was terminated, Votel conceded, Iran theoretically could pursue a nuclear weapon in a matter of months. “Right now I think it is in our interest” to stay in the agreement, he concluded.
Signaling that he has not changed his mind about the deal, Trump indicated Tuesday that Rex Tillerson would no longer be secretary of state, partly because he disagreed with the president on the Iran deal.
Tillerson is set to be replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo, who is known for being hawkish on Iran.
Iranian officials have said they are not concerned about the status of the agreement.
“These changes and developments and firings in the Trump government are not new,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said. “What is important for the Islamic Republic is America’s policy in global affairs and their interaction with us, and we will adopt our own positions.”
Daniel Cebul is an editorial fellow and general assignments writer for Defense News, C4ISRNET, Fifth Domain and Federal Times.