By week’s end, President Trump may have upset the world’s foreign policy establishment with a decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal. And the United States and its allies would be the better off for it.
Just over two years ago — on Sept. 9, 2015, to be exact — then-candidate Trump appeared as a speaker at a rally Tea Party Patriots organized on the west face of the Capitol grounds to express our opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. Thousands of American patriots stood in the heat and humidity of that late summer day to cheer him on as he criticized the deal and vowed his opposition.
At that rally, he said, “Never, ever, ever in my life have I seen any transaction so incompetently negotiated as our deal with Iran. And I mean NEVER.”
He was right. It was a terrible deal then. And it is still a terrible deal today.
Under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the president is required every 90 days to certify to Congress that 1) Iran is “transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing the agreement,” and 2) that continuing the agreement is “vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
President Trump cannot certify that either of those conditions has been met.
On the first count, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) — the international agency tasked with verifying Iranian compliance with the agreement — has acknowledged it cannot verify Iran’s full compliance with the terms of the agreement because Iran will not allow IAEA personnel to inspect certain Iranian military sites where Iran could be conducting “activities which could contribute to the design and development of a nuclear explosive device,” as prohibited in Annex 1, Section T of the agreement.
If the IAEA cannot verify that Iran is in full compliance with the terms of the agreement, how can President Trump certify to Congress that it is?
On the second count, the very idea that continuing this agreement is “vital to the national security interests of the United States” is, quite frankly, laughable.
Iran is one of only three nations on the U.S. State Department’s list of “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” and for good reason — the Iranian regime is the world’s biggest sponsor of anti-American terrorism. The regime funds and assists Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Taliban, among others, each of which actively and aggressively works to attack U.S. citizens, allies, and interests.
But Iran does not limit its anti-American activities to sponsoring proxy activity. It continues its practice of abducting U.S. citizens and threatening U.S. naval vessels transiting international waters.
Moreover, Iran continues to pursue the development of ballistic missile technology — in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions — and continues to threaten the destruction of Israel.
Certifying that continuing the agreement is “vital to the national security interests of the United States” would make a mockery of the phrase “national security interests.”
Instead, the president should decertify, and then demand that the Congress impose sanctions on Iran and any nation that continues to do business with Iran.
Supporters of the deal now cleverly point to one of the agreement’s many flaws — to wit, the fact that most of the benefits to Iran were front-loaded — to insist that withdrawing from the agreement and reimposing sanctions would only hurt us, and not Iran.
That’s wrong. While Iran has clearly benefited from sanctions relief, its economy is still vulnerable to international pressure. The history of financial sanctions against the Iranian regime is clear: Iran’s supporters moan and groan and say sanctions won’t work, then immediately comply once the U.S. imposes sanctions.
Why? Because they would rather stop doing business with Iran and its relatively puny $400 billion economy than lose access to the U.S. and its $19 trillion economy, by far the largest market in the world.
The Iran nuclear deal is still, as candidate Trump rightly claimed two years ago, one of the worst deals ever negotiated. It did not serve our interests then, and it clearly does not serve our interests now.
President Trump should use his authority to decertify the Iran deal and demand that Congress reimpose sanctions.