Right Hooks

Affirming the Iranian Deal Is a Perilous Calculation

The Trump administration's leisurely pace on trashing Obama's horrible nuclear accord endangers America.

Jordan Candler · Jul. 18, 2017

After initially doing so in April, the Trump administration this week made another determination, albeit a last-second one, affirming that Iran is conforming to Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal. The administration is legally mandated to provide Congress an update on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) every 90 days. Suffice to say, re-certification is a risky calculation, though to be fair, Donald Trump’s patience is reportedly waning. According to The New York Times, the re-certification occurred “only after hours of arguing with his top national security advisers,” and “aides said a frustrated Mr. Trump had told his security team that he would not keep doing so indefinitely.” After all, on the campaign trail he often (and rightly) called it the “worst deal ever.”

This report is echoed in The Washington Post, which states, “Senior administration officials made clear that the certification was grudging, and said that President Trump intends to impose new sanctions on Iran for ongoing ‘malign activities’ in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism.” Iran was handed down additional sanctions in April as well, and The Washington Free Beacon reports the new embargo “includes 16 Iranian entities and individuals found to be supporting Tehran’s illicit and criminal activities in the region.”

The administration is finalizing a comprehensive review of the Iran deal. According to the Beacon, “The review is set to be completed in about a month’s time, according to the administration.” Regardless of whether the Trump administration is merely buying time, former ambassador John Bolton, writing in The Hill, argues that — in addition to evidence of clear and deliberate deal-breaking — validating compliance is a meaningless guise. He says:

Certification is an unforced error because the applicable statute (the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, or “INARA”) requires neither certifying Iranian compliance nor certifying Iranian noncompliance. Paula DeSutter and I previously explained that INARA requires merely that the Secretary of State (to whom President Obama delegated the task) “determine … whether [he] is able to certify” compliance (emphasis added). The secretary can satisfy the statute simply by “determining” that he is not prepared for now to certify compliance and that U.S. policy is under review.

The bottom line, Bolton contends, is that there is no reason for the U.S. not to trash the deal. In fact, “Withdrawing from the JCPOA as soon as possible should be the highest priority. The administration should stop reviewing and start deciding. Even assuming, contrary to fact, that Iran is complying with the JCPOA, it remains palpably harmful to American national interests. It should not have taken six months to reach this conclusion.” His exit question is one worth pondering: “This U.S. approach is both dangerous and unnecessary. Care to bet how close Tehran — and North Korea — now are [to a nuclear weapon]? Consider the costs of betting wrong.” Trump should fulfill his campaign pledge before it’s too late.

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