And Trump is playing right into their regime change fantasties

By Daniel Larison
October 13, 2017
The American Conservative

Donald Trump is expected to tell Congress as early as Friday that he will not to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Iran Nuclear Review Agreement Act, also known as Corker-Cardin, obliges the president to make this certification every 90 days. If he does not, Congress has a period of 60 days when it’s able to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions that had been lifted as part of the nuclear deal. Despite grudgingly agreeing to approve the deal twice earlier this year, the president made plain over the summer that he didn’t believe Iran was in compliance and would not certify again. While decertification will not mean an immediate U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, it will set into motion a process that’s very likely to lead to the same result, and send a clear signal of the administration’s determination to be rid of the deal in its current form.

This is folly.

While the administration claims it’s seeking to pressure Iran into making more concessions, the pursuit of an imaginary “better” deal is designed to create political cover for reneging on U.S. obligations later on. None of the other parties to the nuclear deal is willing to renegotiate it, and our European allies have been adamant that they will continue to respect the agreement even if the U.S. reneges. Issuing new demands and calling for renegotiation when none of our allies wants to reopen the matter will obviously fail, and will put unnecessary strain on relations with those governments.

There is no “better” deal to be had, in any case. The “flaws” in the current deal that the administration has criticized aren’t going to be “fixed” because there would have been no agreement without them. For example, the expiration of some restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in 10 or 15 years is a normal part of any arms control agreement, and no government would accept severe restrictions in perpetuity. Demanding that sunset clauses be removed from the deal is demanding something that we already know Iran would never accept.

The decertification decision will kick the issue to Congress. Some Republican members, including Congressman Ed Royce and Senator Rand Paul, have expressed a preference to keep the deal in place so long as Iran remains in compliance. Hard-line opponents of the deal may not rush to reimpose sanctions right away, but it seems implausible that the same people who have fought tooth and nail against the agreement will miss their chance to blow it up. And if Congress does produce sanctions legislation in the next two months, it is fanciful to think Trump would veto a bill to keep an agreement he hates alive.

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