All indications are that President Trump next week will decline to certify Iran as in compliance with the nuclear agreement negotiated by former President Obama. So report Eliana Johnson of Politico and Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon, among others.
I don’t see how Trump, in good faith, can certify that Iran is complying. Last week the head of the IAEA revealed that his organization can’t verify that Iran is fully implementing the nuclear deal — specifically Section T which prohibits certain activities related to “the design and development of a nuclear explosive device” — because Iran has barred inspectors from military sites where those activities would be occurring.
In addition, Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, David Perdue, and Marco Rubio have pointed to four ways in which Iran is out of compliance. Any one of them is grounds for non-certification. So, for that matter, is a finding that the agreement is not “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
If Trump doesn’t certify the deal, what happens then? Eliana Johnson reports that Trump’s national security team has unanimously recommended that the president NOT push Congress to reimpose sanctions on Iran that could cause the deal to unravel. Congress has the power to reimpose sanctions within 60 days of White House non-certification, but is not required to.
In lieu of such sanctions, the White House would serve up new non-nuclear sanctions — ones that don’t violate the agreement with Iran. In addition, the administration would target Iranian-backed militias and terrorist groups, including Lebanon-based Hezbollah, and the financial web that facilitates them.
Iran has warned that if the U.S. reimposes sanctions lifted pursuant to the deal, it might press ahead vigorously with its nuclear program. That threat seems quite plausible.
Clearly, the U.S. would need a plan to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. John Bolton has developed such a plan. It’s a serious one, as would be expected from Bolton.
However, there’s a good chance, I think, that military action would be required to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power in fairly short order following its abrogation of the deal. Is Trump prepared to take military action against Iran or to back such action by Israel?
If not, then reluctance by Trump and/or his team to scuttle the deal is understandable.