President Donald Trump appears to be moving closer to a decision not to recertify to Congress that Iran is meeting its commitments and living up to the so-called “nuclear deal” made with the Obama administration.
The agreement is formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and recertification is due in October.
Decertification would not necessarily make the deal null and void, but it would leave to Congress to decide whether the U.S. should remain an active participant or abandon the agreement altogether. Lawmakers would have 60 days to decide. If they agree with the president and decide a) that Iran is not complying with the terms of the agreement, and b) that it is not in the best security interests of the U.S. to remain a party to it, Congress could then vote to re-impose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the deal.
A group of former and practicing foreign policy experts has urged the president in a letter not to renege on the deal, claiming that it is preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. They point to a 2013 CIA estimate that at the time, Iran was eight-to-12 weeks away from the breakout point. [source]
That said, German intelligence agencies have recently identified a clandestine program launched by Tehran to continue its nuclear development. [source] Even without having formally detected a covert program to cheat on the deal, U.S. and Western intelligence agencies always suspected that Iran would take the benefits of the deal but then continue ICBM and nuclear development in secret, much like North Korea did.
Should the Trump administration de-certify and Congress agree, the decision to back out of the agreement will be seen as a betrayal in Iran (though perhaps an expected one, given Trump’s campaign pledge to pull out of, or renegotiate, the deal), and a green light to continue more overt nuclear and ICBM development, most likely with North Korean assistance.
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