President Trump has until Sunday, October 15, to decide whether to certify that it is in the national security interests of the United States to remain in the nuclear deal between world powers and the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The president certified compliance in the Iran deal — although extremely reluctantly — before the first two 90-day deadlines, while venting that his advisers did not prepare him with an exit strategy in time. This time, however, media reports continue to indicate that the president is leaning strongly toward declaring Iran in violation of the deal.
Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy “achievement” has come under intense scrutiny. Since the Iran deal, Tehran has quadrupled financial support for its Hezbollah terrorist proxy organization and reinvigorated ties with Hamas and other Islamic terrorist groups. But the regime not only supports terrorist groups, it uses its own military to assert regional dominance. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is fighting on the ground to defend the Assad regime in Syria, and Iranian assets have essentially taken control over affairs in Iraq. Iran has reasserted itself as a regional menace, utilizing the nuclear deal as cover to widen its worldwide footprint.
Appeasement-minded organizations told us that the deal would change Iran’s behavior for the better. It most certainly did not. If anything, Iran has pursued an even more aggressive anti-U.S. posture. Every Friday, Iranian clerics continue to lead post-prayer chants of “death to America.” In June, the regime installed a countdown clock to Israel’s annihilation. The mullahs have boosted missile development programs, and the cash-flush nation has invested millions of dollars (in unfrozen assets secured from the nuclear deal) into advancing Tehran’s military endeavors. It’s fair to conclude that the Iran deal failed to live up to its objectives, and it provided the opportunity for Iran to reassert regional dominance, as many foreign policy experts predicted. And the deal as currently structured enables Iran to develop nuclear weapons entirely unchecked.
President Trump appears to recognize the damage that the Iran deal has done to America. But the next steps for the Trump administration post-decertification remain unclear.
Skeptics of the deal argue that Trump should submit the Iran deal to Congress as a treaty. This would allow bipartisan majorities in both houses to cancel U.S. involvement in the deal entirely, while also providing the option of re-imposing sanctions on the terrorist regime in Tehran. Senator Bob Corker and his Democratic partners worked with Obama to create legislation to remove the Senate from its Constitutional obligations. Submitting the deal to Congress would reassert the congressional role in the treaty-making process. For those opposed to the Iran deal, such as former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, total withdrawal is the most effective measure. They argue that it would be in America’s best national security interests to rid itself of the deal entirely and not leave any of it lingering behind.
The president can also choose to decertify Iran’s compliance but decide not to get Congress involved, leaving the deal in legal limbo. This would enable the White House to attempt to renegotiate the deal, but not scrap it entirely. Bloomberg reports that the president may go with this option. Because some in the president’s cabinet remain loyal to Obama’s deal with Iran, this compromise is a possible way to placate both his advisers and his base of support. But skeptics of this approach warn that it would only amount to a symbolic decision that doesn’t change the current U.S. involvement in the accord.
The bottom line is that President Trump is almost certain to finally decertify that it is in America’s interests to remain in a deal that he described as recently as Sunday as “horrendous.” What remains to be seen is whether Trump will rid his administration of Barack Obama’s foreign policy or keep some of it floating around for the foreseeable future.
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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.