Trump washes hands of Iran deal

The Week (US) - - 4 News -

What hap­pened

Pres­i­dent Trump was on the verge of “de­cer­ti­fy­ing” the Iran nu­clear deal this week and hand­ing the fate of the agree­ment to Congress. The ad­min­is­tra­tion is re­quired by law to cer­tify every 90 days that Tehran is com­ply­ing with the 2015 ac­cord, un­der which the coun­try limited its nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for sanc­tions re­lief. Fail­ure to cer­tify trig­gers a 60-day pe­riod for Congress to de­cide whether to reim­pose sanc­tions on Iran— an act that would es­sen­tially scut­tle the deal en­tirely. Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials hope the prospect of the ac­cord’s col­lapse will force Iran and the other sig­na­to­ries—China, France, Rus­sia, Ger­many, the U.K., and the EU—to rene­go­ti­ate terms. The In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency’s in­spec­tors say Tehran is com­ply­ing with its agree­ment not to de­velop nu­clear ca­pa­bil­i­ties. But Trump, who has crit­i­cized the ac­cord signed by Pres­i­dent Obama as “the worst deal ever,” said last week that Iran’s ex­panded bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram and bel­liger­ence in the Mid­dle East runs against the “spirit” of the deal. in one dan­ger­ous nu­clear stand­off, with North Korea. Why risk an­other?

The pres­i­dent is right to de­scribe this deal as “bro­ken,” said the Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner. It imposes no re­stric­tions on Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram, and doesn’t give in­spec­tors im­me­di­ate ac­cess to sus­pi­cious mil­i­tary sites. Yet rather than de­cer­ti­fy­ing now, Trump should use the threat of de­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to get a bet­ter deal. He could de­clare that un­less “clear and con­crete” im­prove­ments are made, he’ll refuse to cer­tify next time. If our Euro­pean al­lies balk, he could threaten to im­pose se­condary sanc­tions on Euro­pean firms that do busi­ness with Tehran. That would “prompt a sense of ur­gency.”

What the columnists said

I was a vo­cal op­po­nent of the 2015 ac­cord, said Max Boot in For­eignPol­icy.com, but de­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is a huge mis­take. It will “iso­late not Iran but the U.S.” The mul­lahs will never rene­go­ti­ate a deal that’s good for them as it is. If the U.S. aban­dons this agree­ment, it would take Iran only “about a year” to pro­duce nu­clear war­heads, said Joe Ses­tak in The Philadel­phia In­quirer. The only way to stop them would be a cam­paign of heavy bomb­ing—but that would trig­ger a sus­tained coun­ter­at­tack from Iran that would close oil-ship­ping routes in the Strait of Hor­muz, desta­bi­lize the global econ­omy, and re­sult in mis­sile at­tacks on Is­rael and U.S. mil­i­tary bases in the re­gion. In other words, a ma­jor re­gional war.

Ac­tu­ally, this is a strate­gic move by Trump, said Jonathan Schanzer in TheAt­lantic.com. De­cer­ti­fy­ing will “prompt all sides to con­sider what the deal is worth to them”—and what they’re will­ing to do to save it. The Ira­ni­ans don’t want to re­turn to “eco­nomic iso­la­tion.” And Rus­sia, China, and Europe are the “pri­mary in­vestors” in Iran’s re­cent eco­nomic re­bound, so they have “lit­tle choice but to try to re­solve Amer­i­can con­cerns.” Trump can “set the terms.”

That’s the “best-case sce­nario,” said Jen­nifer Ru­bin in Wash­ing­ton Post.com. What hap­pens if Iran calls Trump’s bluff and re­fuses to ne­go­ti­ate, and nei­ther Congress nor our al­lies will agree to new sanc­tions? Let’s hope Trump has a “con­tin­gency plan”—be­cause if he doesn’t, his ad­min­is­tra­tion may “wind up with egg on its face.”

The pres­i­dent with his Cab­i­net: A dif­fer­ence of opin­ion

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