Decertifying the Iran deal

By Herbert I. London

President of the London Center for Policy Research

Published May 10, 2018 in The Washington Times

With June 12 around the corner, the day President Trump presumably meets with Kim Jung-un, the agenda still remains unclear but the factors behind the agenda are all too visible.

President Trump made it crystal clear he will decertify the Iran deal, a deal he characterized “as one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States ever entered into “

He had several options before he decided to act: 1) Do nothing and avert his gaze to the violations Iran engaged in; 2) Modify the existing arrangement to make it somewhat more appealing to U.S. critics; 3) Decertify.

Decertification is not the same thing as quitting the deal completely, a point overlooked by many of Mr. Trump’s critics. Mr. Trump, for example, has not yet asked Congress to sanction Iran, albeit that threat is obviously looming.

Many European leaders engaged in trade with Iran, and who have deals still on the negotiating table, tried to persuade the president to hold off on his decision, but Mr. Trump firmly rejected their overtures. He realizes that his action corrodes the legitimacy of the deal and the flawed suppositions embraced when the deal was being consummated in the first place.

It is not surprising former President Obama has angrily challenged Mr. Trump’s stance. After all, he sired this flawed arrangement as the “major accomplishment” of his presidency. In fact, his legacy has been blown to smithereens, despite his ardent defense.

In simple terms the Iran deal was based on the belief Iran would limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Of course, we now know Iranian nuclear programs continued without limits and weapons areas such as ICBM’s were not included in the deal.

On the other side of the equation, sanctions were lifted, frozen assets were returned and actual packets of capital were transferred to Tehran used in part to promote Iranian imperial goals throughout the region.

There is nothing in the text of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) deal that requires Mr. Trump to certify Iran in complying with the terms. That requirement is related to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act put in place in 2015 by members of Congress skeptical of the deal. INRA requires the president to certify every 90 days that Iran is “in technical compliance with the deal,” a matter that had been treated blithely in the past.

The next INARA deadline is October 15, but with the president’s decision, Congress has a 60-day window to reimpose sanctions. Based on the voluminous information Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provided, it is hard to believe Iran is in any way complying with the terms of the arrangement.

It is risible to believe as well that Iran will accelerate its nuclear enrichment programs as a result of the Trump decisions, when it never slowed down its program after the deal was tentatively accepted. (Iran never officially signed off on it).

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will express their concerns, but implicitly Mr. Trump has put them in a vise grip suggesting you can either trade with Iran or trade with the United States. Moreover, Arab allies from Israel to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt have hailed the decertification decision.

Middle East Sunni leaders know all too well that the packets of capital Iran received was employed for military use against them. As Faisal Abbas wrote in the Saudi English Language News, “Paris and London may not like Trump’s decision, but how would the French or British feel if their capital cities came under direct threat by the Iranians?”

Mr. Trump’s courageous decision shifts this matter of Iran’s nuclear program to the appropriate place. Iran can have a functioning economy, despite remarkable set-backs recently, free of sanctions and open to investment, or it can continue present nuclear programs at the cost of devastating ruin.

The real choice is with the mullahs. At the same time, Mr. Trump has made it clear that the sweetheart deal Mr. Obama accepted in which they can proceed with nuclear development and terrorist activity across the Levant is over.

Surely there will be a lot of debate over the decision in which Congress will participate, but the symbolism of decertification will not go unnoticed. Yes, it is a cliche to suggest there is a new sheriff in town, but there is no doubt this sheriff has his guns drawn.

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