Washington, D.C. — October 13, 2017 — President Trump gave a speech today outlining a new strategy on Iran that includes, among other things, decertifying the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Under legislation passed ahead of the signing of the agreement, the president is required to certify or decertify the agreement every 90 days. Trump’s speech took place ahead of the upcoming October 15th deadline for recertification.
Responding to the president’s speech, Jon Rainwater, Executive Director of Peace Action, offered his take. “Once again, Trump is hazarding U.S. and global security interests to protect his fragile ego and spite his predecessor,” said Rainwater. “With the Iran agreement in place, the world has unprecedented access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and rigorous mechanisms in place to ensure Iran’s compliance. If we walk away from this deal, all of the hard-won access, limits and monitoring will end and that puts the U.S. and Iran back on the path to military conflict.”
Following the last certification deadline in July, reports surfaced that Trump did not want to certify Iran’s compliance, and that top aides had to talk him out of decertifying it. Subsequently, the president told reporters that he did not believe Iran was in compliance.
Responding to those signals, more than 80 nuclear policy experts issued a joint statement in September affirming Iran’s compliance with the agreement and urging Congress and the president to stand by it, calling the agreement a “net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.” The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the monitoring body charged with verifying Iran’s compliance with the agreement, also recently reassured the world that Iran is fulfilling its obligations. Even Trump’s key military advisors, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, have said that Iran is in compliance.
The new strategy Trump outlined stopped short of calling on Congress to reimpose sanctions lifted under the agreement, but the president’s failure to recertify the deal still leaves Congress with that option. According to Rainwater, “Trump is effectively putting the fate of the deal back in the hands of Congress. Their options include doing nothing, abrogating the agreement by reimposing sanctions, or trying to renegotiate the terms of the agreement. Congress will destroy the deal if it tries to unilaterally renegotiate a multilateral agreement that was years in the making. Trump may not be blowing up the deal himself, but he’s setting the explosives and handing Congress the detonator.”
Addressing the potential consequences of Trump’s new approach to Iran, Rainwater emphasized the damage it could do to America’s credibility. “Walking away from the agreement despite Iran’s well-established compliance would decimate U.S. credibility on the world stage. While that would be bad news for any future efforts to negotiate international agreements, it’s particularly distressing in the context of dangerously high tensions with North Korea. Diplomacy is the only viable path for curbing North Korea’s nuclear program, and we’ve just sent a clear message that any commitments we might make at the negotiating table are completely vulnerable to the whims of domestic U.S. politics.”
Speaking to the decision now facing Congress, Rainwater explained, “each member of Congress, whether they supported the agreement initially or not, will have to decide whether siding with the president is worth the risks of ending all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, undermining America’s credibility, and escalating the threat of war with both Iran and North Korea. With U.S. and global security interests on the line, partisan politics need to take a back seat.”
Founded in 1957, Peace Action (formerly SANE/Freeze), the United States’ largest peace and disarmament organization, with over 100,000 paid members and nearly 100 chapters in 36 states, works to abolish nuclear weapons, promote government spending priorities that support human needs, encourage real security through international cooperation and human rights and support nonmilitary solutions to international conflicts. The public may learn more and take action at http://www.PeaceAction.org.