Iran deal's foes in US Congress may be its unlikely saviors

Saul Bowman
October 13, 2017

Political observers have warned that any unilateral action by the United States based on unsupported claims of Iranian non-compliance would isolate Washington, impede future efforts for other nonproliferation agreements in the broader worldwide community and increase the likelihood of a wider conflict in the Middle East.

The deal, which gave Iran relief from economic sanctions in return for constraints on its nuclear program took effect in January 2016.

News reported the White House briefed lawmakers Wednesday on the pending decision and those who left were convinced the Obama-era nuclear deal would get decertified. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 is a bipartisan piece of legislation that was overwhelmingly passed by Congress before being opposed -- but eventually signed - by President Obama.

"The decertification is an essential first step to persuading the Europeans that the alternatives to fixing the deal could be President Trump's decision to abandon the deal", said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a nonpartisan policy institute.

Iran has already threatened the USA with dire consequences if it imposes sanctions against the country.

She pointed to other global agreements that the U.S. has abandoned but the rest of the world has remained committed to, including the Paris Agreement on climate change, and said, "What will happen would simply be that the USA will contravene a UNSC resolution and the rest of the world will stick to it".

A Twitter feud that erupted this week between Trump and Corker could complicate the efforts by the influential Republican to broker a deal that would likely require both Democratic and Republican support. The next deadline for him to do so is October 15.

Trump is also expected to seek amendments in the existing deal with respect to the requirement for the USA president to re-certify Iran's compliance every 90 days.

Officials familiar with the internal deliberations as well as informed sources outside the administration say they do not believe Trump will call for Congress to reinstate the sanctions. French President Emmanuel Macron has expressed concern about Iran's ballistic missiles and the "sunset" provisions as well. If he does not certify Iran's compliance to the conditions of the deal than congress will have to re-impose sanctions against Iran within 60 days. "We may have to array our forces to prepare for. calibrated strikes".

Recently, Washington based European envoys, including EU Ambassador met with top senators to convince about the repercussions of withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal.

"There is no technical nor political space to renegotiate this deal", Federica Mogherini, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told PBS Wednesday.

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

As British Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch said on September 25, "We would say, let's intensify the discussions [on how to deal with Iran's other activity], but let's keep the JCPOA".

Iran has said it is open in principle to further discussions, particularly with Europe, but has said its missile programme is non-negotiable.

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

Every 90 days the president has to notify Congress as to whether he believes Iran is complying with the accord and if the lifting of sanctions is in the interest of the American people.

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

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