Today marks 60 days since President Trump announced his decision to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement. Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), Congress had until today to fast-track legislation to reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran that are lifted under the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). Members of Congress have wisely chosen not to pursue such a course of action because it would be a violation of our commitments under the deal and could unravel a successful accord ensuring Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful.
When the President decertified the nuclear agreement and said that it was not in the national interest of the United States he presented no evidence that Iran was not complying with its terms, yet he demanded that Congress take steps to unilaterally amend the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, expand its scope, and extract concessions above and beyond what was achieved through years of diplomacy. Congress has not answered this foolhardy call.
The JCPOA was never meant to solve all of the problems we have with Iranian behavior — and a number of significant security issues persist, including Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for Hezbollah which have a destabilizing effect in the region. But even the deal’s opponents in Congress know that leaving the deal without cause costs us the credibility we need to address Iran’s other problematic activities. Withdrawing from a functioning nonproliferation agreement in this manner would isolate us from our allies and no clear strategy has been articulated to fill in this policy gap. Congress chose not to “snap back” sanctions over the course of these 60 days because they believe the Iran nuclear deal should stay in place.
The President must now decide whether he wants to take sole responsibility for disrupting the deal, exacerbating tensions both with Iran and with our allies, and making a new war in the Middle East more likely. To remain in the nuclear agreement, his Administration must again waive nuclear program-related sanctions by January 15. If the President chooses not to, he will be launching a detrimental new foreign policy — one that carries serious risks to our security, credibility, and effectiveness on the world stage — and he will be to blame for its consequences.