Sunday, 22 October, 2017

Donald Trump set to 'decertify' 2015 Iran nuclear deal

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani delivers a speech during the opening session of the new Parliament in Tehran in 2016 Iranian President Hasan Rouhani delivers a speech during the opening session of the new Parliament in Tehran in 2016. Atta Kenare AFP Getty Images
Andrew Cummings | 13 October, 2017, 00:47

Several congressional Democrats who split with President Barack Obama to oppose the nuclear agreement with Iran are now urging President Donald Trump to uphold the global accord, arguing that robust enforcement is the best way to counter Tehran's malign behavior in the Middle East.

Why does U.S. President Donald Trump want to scrap it?

Ahead, we break down the implications of that decision and what could come next.

What follows after de-certification of deal?

Every 90 days, the president must certify that Iran is still complying with the nuclear accord and that the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, remains in America's national security interest. The law was meant to give Congress an oversight role over the nuclear deal.

Drafts of two proposals seen by The Associated Press, one from Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker and one from committee member and harsh deal critic Senator Tom Cotton, would expand the USA certification criteria to include items that are also the province of the United Nations nuclear watchdog and require the U.S. intelligence community to determine if Iran is carrying out illicit activity in facilities to which the International Atomic Energy Agency does not have access. But that's something no one on Capitol Hill seems inclined to do.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, was one of four Senate Democrats who opposed the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015. In exchange, the U.S., China France, the United Kingdom and Germany would relax economic sanctions each country imposed on Iran.

The White House is seeking to extend or eliminate the expiration date for so-called "sunset" provisions, which limit the amount of uranium Iran is allowed to enrich. He also wants to toughen language on ballistic missiles and inspections.

Two other USA officials, who also requested anonymity, said Trump's bellicose rhetoric on a number of fronts is troubling both many of his own aides and some of America's closest allies, a few of whom have asked US officials privately if Trump's real objective is attacking Iran's nuclear facilities.

Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel who is now a professor at Princeton University, said the political pressure could be intense.

And if that fails, Cotton said, "We may have to impose new, even more coercive, sanctions".

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But Iranian officials have already ruled out any renegotiation of the deal.

The certification would also demand that the intelligence community produce judgments on a wide range of Iranian behaviour that is not covered by the nuclear deal, including ballistic missile testing and development, support for Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and Syrian President Bashar Assad and threats to Israel and the Mideast more broadly, according to the drafts. However, "as flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it", and make sure inspectors have better access to possible nuclear sites, he said.

Federica Mogherini, while talking to PBS TV channel, on Wednesday, highlighted Iran's full compliance with the 2015 deal.

Trump will also call on Congress to amend legislation that requires him to certify the agreement every 90 days, a source of political embarrassment as he has repeatedly denounced it as the "worst deal ever".

First, Congress could vote to snap sanctions back into place, or Trump could refuse to sign the next round of waivers for sanctions. But it is a requirement of USA law.

Notably, the committee's top Republican, Rep. Ed Royce, said the US should adhere to the deal. He would not say whether he would be open to other changes, stressing new conditions might violate the deal.

Trump will use an executive order to declare Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation. "It doesn't try and do more. that needs to be understood and recognised in Washington".

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who spoke with Tillerson the same day, said that "while Iran's destabilizing activities in the region are unacceptable, the regime has upheld its nuclear commitments", according to a statement released from his office.

But it could be hard to get both Iran and its ally, Russia, back to the table for a new round of talks.

What exactly that will look like is still being determined, but it could include greater congressional oversight.

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