Luke Schroeder, columnist
Last Friday, President Trump announced the decertification of the Iran Nuclear Deal. While this move has attracted high volumes of criticism, it is the right course of action.
To understand why this is the right decision, let’s take a step back to 2013.
At that time, members of the international community were deeply concerned with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. A nation where chants such as “Death to America” are common should never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
Under the Obama administration, the U.S. joined the U.N. Security Council in negotiations with Iran. By the end of 2013, the talks had resulted in the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), a temporary agreement that reduced economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a freeze of that nation’s nuclear weapons program.
Negotiations continued for nearly two more years, and eventually led to the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. The Deal eliminated over $100 billion in international sanctions on Iran in exchange for a weakening of Iran’s nuclear program. As part of the final agreement, the United States also payed Iran nearly $2 billion, including $400 million in cash.
Critics of the deal frequently cite its sunset provisions, which lift key nuclear restrictions a few years after they take effect, as fundamental flaws. In their eyes, significant Iranian sanctions relief don’t justify temporary and easily reversible nuclear restrictions.
One such critic, then-presidential candidate Trump, promised on numerous occasions to “rip up” the Iran Deal upon taking office.
This brings us to the present, nearly nine months into President Trump’s first term. What exactly did Trump do to the Nuclear Deal? Did he fulfill his campaign threat to withdraw? Not quite.
On the heels of the deal’s approval, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which granted Congress oversight power of the agreement.
A component of this law requires the President to certify Iran’s adherence to the Nuclear Deal every 90 days. The Obama administration continually certified the deal, and Trump (grudgingly) certified it twice.
Trump broke the trend last Friday. It’s important to understand what the president actually did – he did not withdraw from the Iran deal. His decertification is limited to domestic implications under the aforementioned Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, leaving the deal untouched in an international capacity.
Why did Trump take this course of action? Why is this action beneficial to U.S. national security?
As President Trump stated in his announcement of decertification, “on two separate occasions, [Iran has] exceeded the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water … [they] also failed to meet our expectations in [their] operation of advanced centrifuges. The Iranian regime has also intimidated international inspectors into not using the full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for.”
Iran, as recently as last month, has also violated U.N. Security Council Resolutions through their testing of ballistic missiles. As reported by CNN, “The missiles, capable of reaching Iran’s archenemy Israel, were marked with a statement in Hebrew reading ‘Israel must be wiped off the Earth.’”
Further, the state of Iran, according to a report from Obama’s own State Department, “remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2015, providing a range of support, including financial, training and equipment, to groups around the world.”
The regime in Iran defies international agreements, continues to threaten U.S. allies and sponsors terror around the globe. Iran is not deserving of the sanctions relief they are currently receiving under the Iran Deal.
Trump’s decertification of the deal is a warning shot across Iran’s bow, and a call to action for Congress. As a result of President Trump’s action, Congress now has 60 days to find solutions that will make the Iran Deal more effective.
According to a fact sheet from the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, recently introduced legislation would require an “automatic snapback of U.S. sanctions should Iran go under a one year ‘breakout’ period and move closer to a nuclear weapon.”
The legislation, introduced by Senators Cotton (R-AR) and Corker (R-TN), would also impose new restrictions which would “effectively [rid] the JCPOA of its sunset provisions as they apply to U.S. sanctions bolster [International Atomic Energy Agency] verification powers; and limit Iran’s advanced centrifuge program.”
These steps are vitally needed in order to keep Iran in check. Congress should act soon to strengthen the force of the agreement and correct its flaws. Striking sunset provisions (in favor of permanent requirements), forcing more transparency and confining Iran’s nuclear capabilities would accomplish these objectives.
As we now see in North Korea, inaction only allows threats to advance. Now is not the time to stand idly by.
We should all hope that the result of Trump’s decertification is a more robust and permanent nuclear deal that will forever prohibit Iran’s development of nuclear arms.