Final round of negotiations on a nuclear deal with Iran continue in Vienna November 21, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON -- US President Donald Trump plans to declare next week that the Iran nuclear deal is not in the national security interests of the United States–a move that will spark a 60-day congressional review process that will decide the fate of the accord, US officials disclosed on Thursday.
The White House press secretary said on Thursday that Trump would lay out a "comprehensive strategy" on Iran, supported by his national security team, over the coming days.
Under a US law passed in 2015, the president must certify Iran's compliance with a deal it brokered with international powers that year meant to govern its nuclear program for over a decade. The president is required to issue a certification every ninety days.
In doing so, the president must verify that Iran is transparently adhering to the deal– and that the continued suspension of nuclear-related sanctions are in the national security interest. Based on this rationale, Trump is expected to "decertify" in a speech tentatively slated for October 12.
Such a move would then require lawmakers on Capitol Hill to "expeditiously" consider "qualifying legislation" on Iran and its nuclear work. They may choose to reimpose sanctions, to pass new punishments targeting Iran's other activities, or not to act at all.
US President Donald Trump says Iran has not lived up to spirit of nuclear deal, October 5, 2017. (Reuters)
But the certification process is an internal US matter that will not effect US participation within the deal itself, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Only the reimposition of pre-JCPOA sanctions, approved by Congress or enforced by executive order, would have the effect of "withdrawing" the US from the agreement.
In recent days, Republican and Democratic senators alike have questioned the wisdom of a full withdrawal, making it unlikely they will vote to reimpose the sort of crippling sanctions that once were in force.
And while many Democrats voted against the nuclear deal once it was completed in 2015, the caucus is united against any effort to scuttle it today.
Over 180 members of the 194-member caucus– including several who disapproved of the deal when it was brokered in 2015– wrote a letter to the president encouraging him to “keep America’s word” and maintain its diplomatic credibility by sticking with the multilateral accord.
“Some of us voted for, and some of us voted against, the nuclear agreement with Iran,” the October 4 letter, written by Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida and Rep. David Price of North Carolina, said. “Nonetheless, we are united in our belief that enforcing the agreement to the fullest extent will provide the United States with more leverage to stop a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and push back on Iran’s destabilizing activities.”
Despite the White House assertion that Trump’s national security team unanimously supports his decision, his defense secretary, James Mattis, told senators on Tuesday that remaining within the deal was in America’s national security interests.
“If we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then clearly we should stay with it,” he said.
One author of the letter who has been skeptical of the nuclear accord said that its flaws could only be fixed by remaining within the agreement and maintaining the trust of America’s international partners.
“We forced Iran to the negotiating table in the first place because of the multilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by the US and our global partners,” said Deutch, who in 2015 voted against the deal.
“Now, we need the help of this international coalition to keep up the pressure on Iran for its other malign activities outside of the JCPOA.”
He cited the Islamic Republic’s “support for terrorism, its gross human rights violations, and its ballistic missile weapons” program.
“If President Trump decertifies Iranian compliance without clear evidence of Iranian violations, it will jeopardize this united front against Iran,” Deutch continued. “The JCPOA is an imperfect agreement, but to address the problematic provisions including the sunset clauses, we will need to stay in lockstep with our global partners.”