Update (11:40 am ET): As expected, Trump has confirmed that the White House wants to leave the Iran deal intact – for now, at least. In its official announcement, the administration said it plans to decertify the Iran nuclear deal on Oct. 15, but instead of withdrawing from the pact, it will punt the issue to Congress. Most of the official announcement was not unexpected. However, in one notable development, the administration said it would push Congress to amend US law to adopt sanctions “triggers” – such as evidence that Iran has come within one year of building a bomb. By endorsing triggers, Trump is effectively endorsing the Corker-Cotton plan for strengthening scrutiny against Iran – an amusing coincidence given Trump’s recent spat with Senator Bob Corker.
Other trigger points could include future ballistic missile launches or a refusal to restrict its fuel production.
However, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted, it’s entirely possible that Congress will choose to do nothing and leave the current deal intact.
Trump will also direct Treasury Dept to target Iranian Revolutionary Guard members with sanctions
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After months of feverish speculation about the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump is expected on Friday to announce that he will refuse to certify that the accord serves US interests, leaving the dirty work of deciding whether to kill it to Congress.
In response, Russia warned yet again that abandoning the deal would have a negative impact on global stability and efforts to ensure non-proliferation of atomic weapons, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. Peskov added that reports of Russian military officers being denied US visas to attend a UN briefing on missile-defense were “very worrying.”
Trump will make the declaration in a speech set for 12:45 pm ET, during which he’s expected to outline a broader policy of containment aimed at curbing Iran’s controversial ballistic missile program, as well as its support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah, Bloomberg reports.
Reuters reports that the new strategy will include three key goals: Fixing the nuclear deal to make it harder for Iran to develop a weapon, addressing its ballistic missile program and countering Iranian activities that Washington says contribute to instability in the Middle East.
The administration has long argued that the way the deal is structured will eventually allow Iran to develop a weapon. Of course, Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and denies it is developing nuclear weapons.
Two Republican senators, Bob Corker and Tom Cotton, say they’ve developed a plan to address the administration’s complaints about the deal. Their proposal would involve automatically reimposing sanctions should Iran’s nuclear program advance to the point where it could develop a nuclear weapon in less than one year.
As the administration announced its plan for Iran, Republican Senators Bob Corker and Tom Cotton said they had developed legislation intended to address what they see as deficiencies in the Iran nuclear deal.
In a proposed legislative framework, they offered a plan to automatically reimpose sanctions if Iran’s nuclear program were to get to a point where Tehran could develop a nuclear weapon in less than one year, known as a “breakout” period.
They said their measure, if passed by Congress, would remain in force indefinitely, lead to tougher inspections and limit Iran’s centrifuge development.
It was unclear what chance the measure, expected to be offered as an amendment to the existing Iran nuclear review law, would have of winning enough support to be passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate.
The deal’s other signatories – the UK, Germany, France, China, Russia and the European Union – are less than pleased with the US’s attempts to kill the accord, particularly since they disagree with the US’s assertion that Iran hasn’t complied with the terms of the deal.
Given that the notoriously fickle US Congress will now decide the fate of the deal, the other signatories will be forced to brook the uncertainty surrounding the deal’s ultimate fate. Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the only way Iran would be persuaded to continue to observe the limits on its civil nuclear program would be if the other signatories all agreed to defy the US’s order to reimpose sanctions.
According to Bloomberg, European diplomats have discussed a scenario where they “create a win” for Trump by endorsing his criticisms of the Iranian ballistic missile program and the country’s support for groups like Hezbollah.
Efforts to unwind or rewrite the accord will be a hard sell to the other nations that joined the U.S. in hammering it out in months of talks – not only Iran, China and Russia but also the U.K., France and Germany. The U.S. assertion that Iran isn’t complying with the agreement “contradicts the assessment of all member states of the European Union – and it contradicts our assessment,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters in Berlin on Oct. 9.
European leaders have echoed some of Trump’s concerns, especially about Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for groups they consider terrorists. One European diplomat said on condition of anonymity that allies hope to “create a win” for Trump by endorsing his criticism of Iran in the hope that he will move on to other issues.
Unfortunately for the White House, Corker is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so any legislation will need to pass his committee before the broader senate can bring it to a vote.
Trump famously laid the blame for the Iran deal at Corker’s feet after the senator told the New York Times that the White House was functioning like an “adult daycare center”. Notably, Corker’s plan would stop short of trashing the deal.
But with only a slim two-vote majority, a handful of foreign-policy moderates could feasibly stop the Senate from implementing its plan, creating another situation where Republicans are begrudgingly forced to accept the status quo.