Tillerson: Iran Left ‘Unchecked’ Could Follow North Korea’s Path

  • As Trump orders review of U.S visa programme

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the United States will conduct a “comprehensive review” of its policy toward Iran, including the 2016 nuclear deal, which he said had merely delayed Iran’s goal of becoming a nuclear state.

“This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face in North Korea,” Tillerson said. “The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear Iran’s provocative actions threaten the U.S., the region and the world.”

Tillerson notified Congress on Tuesday that despite finding that Iran was meeting the terms of the deal, the Trump administration was reviewing whether to break from the agreement, saying in part that Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Wednesday, Tillerson ticked off what he called the abuses of the Islamic Republic point by point, accusing Iran of sponsoring terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon and against Israel.

Other grievances included the harassment of U.S. naval vessels, the conducting of cyber-attacks, the arbitrary detention of foreigners, including U.S. citizens, and the carrying out of ballistic missile tests in violation of U.N. resolutions.

The Iran nuclear deal, which went into effect in January 2016, was an agreement among five world powers — Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — and Iran. Although billions of dollars of Iran’s assets were unfrozen in exchange for Iran’s curbing its nuclear program, U.S. sanctions against the Islamic Republic because of its support of terrorism weren’t lifted.

Iran has been on the annual U.S. list of countries supporting terrorism since 1984, and as of 2015 it was determined to be the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” above Syria and Sudan.

Countries designated on the list are subject to specific U.S. sanctions, but how exactly has Iran supported terrorism around the world?

According to the most recent State Department report, the Islamic Republic of Iran provides a range of support to terrorist groups, “including financial, training, and equipment.” Most notably, that support is directed through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, also known as the Quds Force (IRGC-QF), and the foreign terrorist organization, Hezbollah.

Defense Secretary James Mattis addressed those groups’ impact on the region while in Saudi Arabia Wednesday.

“The militia they maintain, Lebanese Hezbollah that they support in Lebanon, that militia is contributing thousands of fighters, and of course Iran’s got its own military inside Syria continuing to hold [President Bashar] Assad in power,” Mattis said. “Everywhere you look, if there is trouble inside the region you find Iran.”

In the meantime, President Donald Trump has ordered a review of the U.S. visa program for bringing high-skilled foreign workers into the country, putting technology firms and the outsourcing companies that serve them on notice that possible changes may be ahead.

Seeking to carry out a campaign pledge to put “America First,” Trump signed an executive order on the H-1B visa program. It was vague on many fronts, and did not change existing rules, but one objective, said Trump aides, is to modify or replace the current lottery for H-1B visas with a merit-based system that would restrict the visas to highly skilled workers. Indian nationals are the largest group of H-1B recipients annually.

Such a change could affect companies, such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Cognizant Tech Solutions Corp and Infosys Ltd that connect U.S. technology companies with thousands of foreign engineers and programmers. None responded to requests for comment.

Trump announced the order and made remarks at a visit to the headquarters of Snap-On Inc, a tool maker in Wisconsin.

In addition to addressing the visas issue, he also ordered a review of government procurement rules favouring American companies to see if they are actually benefiting, especially the U.S. steel industry.

“With this action, we are sending a powerful signal to the world: We’re going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first,” Trump said.

Trump was a businessman before he was elected president last year, and his companies have been criticized for using visa programs to fill positions at Trump properties with foreign workers. Trump-branded products are also made overseas.

He nears the 100-day benchmark of his presidency, Trump still has no major legislative achievements. With his attempts to overhaul healthcare and tax law stalled in Congress, Trump has leaned heavily on executive orders to change policy.

It was unclear whether the latest such order would yield immediate results. The H-1B visas section included no definite timeline. The government procurement section did.

“We hope the goal of President Trump’s executive order on the H-1B program is ‘mend it, don’t end it,’” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology industry group.

Going to a more merit-based H-1B system could attract more people with advanced science and technology skills, Atkinson said in a statement. But he said some ideas could make the system ineffective, such as requiring advertisement of job openings for long periods to prove the unavailability of U.S. workers.

Democrats said Trump’s order was not strong enough, and too late, after thousands of visas were awarded this month in this year’s lottery.

NBC with additional report from Citizen