White House officials confirmed this weekend that President Trump was going to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement in the coming days, thus kicking off a process that could put economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic back into place. Trump’s decision does not automatically mean the end of the Iran deal, but if Congress decided to put sanctions back in place, it could force Iran to pull out of their end of the bargain. According to sources, President Trump will not, however, recommend that Congress reimpose those sanctions, meaning that his decision to decertify is only – for now – meant as pressure on the Iranians to get their act together.
Trump’s middle-of-the-road approach to the deal is a result of a compromise with two opposing forces within his administration. Several of his top advisers, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are said to be in favor of keeping the deal. Meanwhile, President Trump, in accordance with his campaign vow, would like to pull out of the agreement altogether and force the Iranians back to the negotiating table. He believes the deal is too weak to be meaningful, gives too much to Iran in return for too little, and he does not see their ongoing ballistic missile testing as a sign of their cooperation.
Things reached a sharper turning point recently, when international inspectors revealed that Iran was not allowing them into certain military areas. This of course leads many observers, including the president, to wonder how we can be sure they are not in material breach of the deal.
Russia, China, and Iranian leaders themselves have said that Iran will not come back to the table to renegotiate the terms of the agreement.
Well, we’ll see about that.
If that’s the case, then President Trump will have to do more than to simply decertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. It will be time to go all the way and declare the deal null and void, which is perhaps what the president should have done upon taking office. Any deal that allows Iran to build a nuclear weapon down the line in exchange for simply waiting a while (and getting billions of dollars richer in the meantime) is not a deal worth saving. If Iran doesn’t want a new, better deal, then it’s up to Trump and the Republicans to scrap Obama’s security-endangering disaster and move on.