Iran nuclear deal hangs on Trump’s whim
PRESIDENT DONALD Trump says he has already decided whether or not to decertify the Iranian nuclear agreement struck under his predecessor Barack Obama — but won’t reveal what that decision is.
He certainly hasn’t hidden his opinion on the agreement. In his address to the UN General Assembly last Tuesday he described it as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
Next month he has an opportunity to suspend it. The White House has to inform Congress whether Iran is in compliance with the deal — if not, Congress will then have 60 days to re-impose the sanctions on Iran that were cancelled following the deal that was signed in July 2015.
There are two main obstacles facing Mr Trump if he chooses to go down that path. First, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s compliance, has already reported that Tehran is sticking to the agreement. Second, the other signatories to the deal — Britain, Russia, China, Germany and France — are all opposed to cancelling or changing it.
As seen with the Paris climate treaty, the president is prepared to take on the international community and pull out of treaties, but there is a possible alternative being discussed in Washington.
The Iran deal focused solely on the issues directly connected to nuclear development and research and did not regulate other Iranian weapons programmes or regional activities. Tehran claimed over the weekend to have launched a long-range ballistic missile; US intelligence says it picked up no indication of the test, but it would have been in contravention of a separate UN resolution rather than this deal. The same is true of Iran’s support and weapons supplies to groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Houthi fighters in Yemen.
By positioning itself this way, the Trump administration could create the leverage for new international measures against Iran on weapons development and support for terror organisations. That would put pressure on Tehran while leaving the Iran deal intact for now.