On Monday, President Donald J. Trump, to his considerable consternation, certified that Iran is in compliance with the terms of the international nuclear agreement or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) brokered between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. Under US law, the administration is required to notify Congress every 90 days as to whether Iran is in compliance with the agreement.
While, on the face of it, the certification might be seen as welcome step toward strengthening the global nuclear non-proliferation regime and toward better relations between the United States and Iran, reports indicate that the agreement will find itself the focus of intense criticism over the next three months, in the lead up to the next round of certification.
As Peter Baker reports in The New York Times, while this was the second time the president has certified Iran’s compliance, “aides said a frustrated Mr. Trump had told his security team that he would not keep doing so indefinitely.”
Indeed, before agreeing to this second certification, Trump insisted that his national-security team lay out a plan to “toughen enforcement of the deal, apply new sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism and other destabilizing activities, and negotiate with European partners to craft a broader strategy to increase pressure on Tehran.”
Europe, however, has shown little appetite for renegotiating the deal, and Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has even threatened to withdraw from the deal in the face of Trump’s bluster. In an interview with The National Interest’s Jacob Heilbrunn, Foreign Minister Zarif said, “If it comes to a major violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance [by the United States], then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal.” Zaif also noted that Trump’s rhetoric “is not conducive to greater understanding, not just with Iran but with other countries as well.”
Trump’s bluff and bluster aside, the Iran deal is, in fact, working. According to Philip Gordon, who served as the Obama administration’s point man on Middle East issues, and Richard Nephew, who helped negotiate the terms of the JCPOA, “the deal is doing exactly what is was supposed to do: prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, demonstrate to the Iranian public the benefits of cooperation with the international community, and buy time for potential changes in Iranian politics and foreign policy.”
The IAEA has also certified the Iran is fulfilling its obligations. Yet Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council, says the same cannot be said of the Trump administration.
According to Parsi, “President Trump.has already explicitly violated Article 29 of the JCPOA by urging other nations not engage in what is now legal trade with Iran.”
“Under Trump,” says Parsi ”diplomacy has been traded for threats, placing the US and Iran at risk of war once more.”
Meanwhile, ever in the pocket of AIPAC and the US defense industry, some senators are doing their part to help sabotage the deal. On July 11, Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, and David Perdue signed a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging the administration not to recertify, claiming that “in light if Iran’s malign actions since the signing of the JCPOA, the only reasonable conclusion is that the full suspension of US sanctions is not in the vital national security interests of the United States and that Iran has consistently violated the terms of the JCPOA.”
Unfortunately, it seems the president’s instincts regarding Iran align perfectly with the sentiments of the most hawkish wing of his party.
And so, with the agreement in danger, it might be a powerful signal if the various organizations and individuals that form the #Resistance would make the survival of the Iranian nuclear deal a key part of their agenda and work with organizations such as the Ploughshares Fund and the Nuclear Threat Initiative in pressuring Congress and the Trump administration to abide by the agreement, which was one of the principal foreign policy achievements of the Obama administration.