Corker: Scrapping Iran deal could make North Korea 'more difficult'

Corker: Scrapping Iran deal could make North Korea 'more difficult'
© Greg Nash

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump angers biz groups with 0B tariff threat 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families Trump’s midterm suicide plan: Make children cry and mothers mad MORE (R-Tenn.) warned Tuesday that withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal could have consequences for the ongoing crisis with North Korea as President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE faces critical deadlines on the accord.

“I hope at some point we’re going to enter into a very binding agreement with North Korea, and if it’s believed that we withdrew from a military agreement when there aren’t material violations — there’s some technical violations, but not material violations — then it makes it more difficult for people to believe we’re going to abide by another agreement,” Corker told reporters Tuesday.

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Democratic lawmakers and other supporters of the Iran deal have argued for months that Trump scrapping the nuclear accord could imperil any diplomatic effort with North Korea by showing the United States cannot be trusted to keep its deals.

Most Republicans, though, have argued the two issues are unrelated or that Iran is watching North Korea’s belligerence to see what it might be able to get away with.

Beginning this week, Trump faces a number of deadlines related to the Iran nuclear agreement that could kill the deal or keep it afloat.

On Thursday, Trump again has to tell Congress whether the deal remains in the U.S. national interest. Trump refused to make the certification the last time the deadline rolled around, but because it's a requirement of U.S. law, and not the deal itself, that move did not kill the accord.

In the days after Thursday’s certification deadline, Trump will also have to decide whether to continue waiving sanctions lifted as part of the deal. Failure to continue waiving sanctions would likely be seen by Iran as a violation, leading to the agreement’s death.

Corker has been working with the administration on legislation that would aim to address Trump’s call to fix the Iran nuclear deal without violating its terms.

The senator said Tuesday that progress continues to be made with Democrats and European allies on the legislation, but that he still doesn't expect to have a concrete product by this week’s deadlines.

“We’ve gotten to a really good place; now the question is can we get there fully,” Corker said.

Even if legislation comes to fruition, Corker added, Trump “still could get out of” the deal.

But Corker offered up three reasons why he believes now is not the time to withdraw from the accord. One was the North Korea issue. He also expressed concerned about drawing attention away from the protesters in Iran and losing leverage with European allies.

“Right now, because of the concerns they have about President Trump withdrawing," Corker said of Europe, "they’re much more willing to work with us on lots of other issues, and so you lose that leverage if you just withdraw."