President Trump promised to end the Iran nuclear deal during his campaign, and he may be one step closer to doing so.
Trump plans to not recertify the nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), according to CNN. U.S. law stipulates that the president must certify that Iran is compliant with the agreement every 90 days. Trump has already recertified the deal twice since taking office, despite his promise, but he may not do so by the next deadline on Oct. 15. If he goes through with it, Congress would then engage in a 60-day review period to determine what happens next.
“I think one of the most important myths to debunk about decertification is that decertification is automatically akin to U.S. withdrawal from the deal, which is absolutely untrue,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Circa. “Really, Congress would have a fair amount of leeway and really it’s up to them.”
Congress’ result could come in many forms, including follow-on agreements to the deal. Trump has been a more-than-vocal opponent of the Obama-era agreement, but he has also expressed interest in renegotiation. That said, it is possible the U.S. could simply remove itself from the JCPOA altogether.
“If Congress decides to re-impose nuclear sanctions, that would be akin to taking the U.S. out of the deal, simultaneously, if the president doesn’t wave nuclear sanctions, that would also be akin to taking the U.S. out of the deal,” said Taleblu.
Iran received substantial nuclear sanctions relief under the agreement, which the president is responsible for waiving as the agreement continues. So if Trump does not waive the sanctions or Congress adds them, Iran would likely choose to remove itself.
While Trump may wish to seek a better agreement, Iran has made it clear that it is a nonstarter.
“I think it was the unanimous view of all negotiating the nuclear deal that renegotiation of this deal is impossible,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said in an interview last month. “It would open a Pandora’s box.”
Critics of the nuclear agreement note that it is only temporary. Indeed, several of its provisions will no longer be applicable after 10 to 15 years due to what are referred to as “sunset clauses.” Additionally, the agreement only covers the Iranian nuclear program. It places no restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, which would produce the vehicle carrying a potential nuclear warhead. Nor does it counter Iranian support for terrorist groups in the Middle East like Hezbollah.
Despite the accord, Iran has continued to test ballistic missiles and meddle in several crises across the Middle East.