WASHINGTON, Oct 13 — Under US law, President Donald Trump must decide this week whether to certify to Congress that the Iran nuclear deal remains in America’s vital national interest.
If as expected he de-certifies — or fails to re-certify — this does not signify the collapse of a deal that was signed by Teheran and six world powers including Washington.
By failing to certify the deal, Trump would in effect be kicking the ball to Congress, which would have 60 days to decide whether to “snap back” new sanctions on Iran.
Any snap-back could be denounced as an American breach of the deal by Iran and would dismay US allies in Europe, wary that Trump could abrogate the whole agreement.
But some in Washington see de-certification as a way to strengthen Trump’s hand as he seeks new measures to prolong controls on Iran after the deal’s 2025 “sunset.”
Few lawmakers want to take responsibility for sinking the accord and even anti-Iran hawks have not threatened to jump on decertification to seek new or renewed sanctions.
In any case, if Trump wanted to sink the deal he could simply reinstate the nuclear-related sanctions himself or allow a waiver suspending them to expire.
For its international backers, the agreement that is commonly referred to as the Iran deal is enshrined in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.
This was implemented in January 2016, when the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran had met its obligations and the US, UN and EU lifted nuclear-related sanctions.
But Washington’s role in the deal is also constrained by US federal law.
The JCPOA was not submitted for ratification by the US Congress, which responded by renewing US sanctions on Iran and passing a law requiring regular review.
Thus, Washington upholds its side of the bargain with Iran by issuing a regular presidential “waiver” to the nuclear-related sanctions, which have not been repealed.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is required to renew this sanctions waiver periodically after his department reviews Iran’s compliance.
Meanwhile another, more politically fraught fail-safe, comes up every 90 days, under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of May 2015.
Under this law, which has no institutional link to the JCPOA, Trump must certify that:
— Iran is fully and transparently implementing the agreement;
— Iran has not materially breached the deal;
— Iran has not advanced its nuclear weapons programme; and
— The deal remains vital to US national security interests.
Trump clearly does not believe the fourth test to have been met, and this is why he is very likely to fail to re-certify the deal. — AFP