The United States will continue working with its allies to ensure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday, a day after President Donald Trump withdrew from an international nuclear deal with Tehran.
"We will continue to work alongside our allies and partners to ensure that Iran can never acquire a nuclear weapon, and will work with others to address the range of Iran’s malign influence," Mattis said in a hearing before the US Senate Appropriations Committee.
"This administration remains committed to putting the safety, interests, and well-being of our citizens first," Mattis said.
Trump on Tuesday pulled the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran, raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East, upsetting European allies and casting uncertainty over global oil supplies.
The 2015 agreement, worked out by the United States, five other world powers and Iran, lifted sanctions on Tehran in exchange for its agreement to limit its nuclear program. The pact was designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
Trump's decision has intensified the strain on the trans-Atlantic alliance since he took office 16 months ago. A number of European leaders came to Washington ahead of Trump's decision on Tuesday to plead with him to preserve the deal.
The Trump administration kept the door open to negotiating another deal with allies, but it is far from clear if the Europeans would agree to that approach and if they could convince Iran to accept it.
Last year, Mattis said the United States should consider staying in the Iran nuclear deal unless it was proven that Tehran was not abiding by the agreement or that it was not in the US national interest to do so.
In the hearing on Wednesday, Mattis said Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal had not been a hasty one.
"The president could not affirm as required that this agreement was being lived up to and in the best interest in all aspects of what was supposed to be happening under the JCPOA," Mattis said, using an acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name of the nuclear deal with Iran.
"I think we now have the opportunity to move forward to address those shortcomings and make it more compelling," Mattis said. He added that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin were working on the issue.