What manner of deal is this?

Rep. Mike Pompeo has elicited the letter below from the Department of State explaining the nature of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran. What manner of deal is this?

According to Assistant Secretary of State Julia (“If that really is your name”) Frifield, the deal is not a treaty. The deal is not an executive agreement. The deal is not even a document signed to represent the asset of the parties thereto. Rather, the deal is a set of political commitments. “As you know,” Frifield explains, “the United States has a long-standing practice of addressing sensitive problems in negotiations that result in political commitments.”

Actually, I didn’t know that. I wish Frifield had cited the relevant precedents. Nevertheless, the CFR’s John Bellinger explicated the deal as a set of political commitments this past July in “How binding is the Iran deal?” He doesn’t cite any precedents either.

Jack Goldsmith and Marty Lederman take up the question and cite precedents in this past March’s Lawfare post “The case for the president’s unilateral authority to conclude the impending Iran deal is easy because it will (likely) be a nonbinding agreement under international law.” Ryan Harrington has more in the forthcoming West Virginia Law Review article “Political commitments and the Case Act.”

The Iran deal was to usher in an era of good feelings, but it seems to have accomplished something closer to the opposite. David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth report that “Iranian hackers attack State Department via social media accounts.” They note in their lead paragraph: “Four months after a historic accord with Tehran to limit its atomic ambitions, American officials and private security groups say they see a surge in sophisticated computer espionage by Iran, culminating in a series of cyberattacks against State Department officials over the past month.”

That’s no “historic accord,” that’s a “political commitment.” Now what?

Letter from State Department Regarding JCPOA

Via Joel Gehrke/NR.

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