Trump: If Congress, Allies Can't Fix Iran Nuclear Deal, 'the Agreement Will be Terminated'

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — President Trump announced today that he would not recertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal after what he said was “a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.”

One of the nuclear deal’s Democratic opponents in the Senate, though, called the decision “more about campaign promises and less about our national security interests.”

Trump mentioned at the White House today his previous statements that the P5+1 deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

“The same mindset that produced this deal is responsible for years of terrible trade deals that have sacrificed so many millions of jobs in our country, to the benefit of other countries,” he said. “We need negotiators who will much more strongly represent America’s interests.”

Iran has adamantly stated it will not renegotiate the deal, and European entities involved in the original negotiations have also indicated they’re not open to the option.

“The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement. For example, on two separate occasions, they have exceeded the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water. Until recently, the Iranian regime has also failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges,” Trump continued in prepared remarks. “The Iranian regime has also intimidated international inspectors into not using the full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for. Iranian officials and military leaders have repeatedly claimed they will not allow inspectors onto military sites, even though the international community suspects some of those sites were part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear program. There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea.”

The president said he would order intelligence agencies “to do a thorough analysis and report back their findings beyond what they have already reviewed.”

Adding that Iran “is not living up to the spirit of the deal,” Trump announced a strategy of working with allies “to counter the regime’s destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region,” imposing additional sanctions on the regime “to block their financing of terror,” addressing Tehran’s “proliferation of missiles and weapons that threaten its neighbors’ global trade and freedom of navigation,” and denying all paths to a nuclear weapon.

That strategy, he said, “begins with the long-overdue step of imposing tough sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

“I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism, and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents and affiliates,” Trump said.

Iran’s foreign ministry replied in a statement, “Any move against the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, will be met with Iran’s fitting and strong response.”

Per law, Trump’s decertification of the deal kicks the nuclear agreement back to Congress. “In the event we are not able to reach a solution, working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” he said.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, though, said Trump does not have the power to kill the JCPOA, as no one country could terminate the pact between Iran, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the U.S. and the European Union.

“We cannot afford as the international community to dismantle a nuclear agreement that is working,” Mogherini told reporters. “This deal is not a bilateral agreement … The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will continue to be, in place.”

Trump said he hoped new measures against Iran would “compel the government to reevaluate its pursuit of terror at the expense of its people.”

Sen. Bob Mendendez (D-N.J.), one of four Senate Dems who voted against the deal when it was reviewed two years ago, noted that Trump’s “top military commanders have made clear the fulfillment of our international obligations and protection of our national security must always come before political calculations,” and warned that “not certifying now does nothing but create uncertainty among our allies and embolden an already belligerent Iran.”

“Instead of alienating our allies by decertifying the JCPOA, the president should be leveraging certification to get their commitment to join our efforts to more robustly counter the Iranian regime’s indisputably nefarious behavior. It’s well past time, for example, that our European allies begin legally treating all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, and offer more than verbal slaps on the wrist each time Iran tests ballistic missiles and violates UN Security Council Resolution 2231,” he said.

Menendez added that the international community “must unite to not only strengthen oversight and enforcement of the JCPOA, but also to design a comprehensive strategy that addresses Iranian nuclear ambitions in the short timeframe after which this deal will expire,” and “none of these critical security objectives are advanced by simply not certifying the JCPOA.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), another “no” vote against the deal in 2015, said he “strongly” disagrees with Trump’s “reckless, political decision and his subsequent threat to Congress.”

“At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the president has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners, compromising our ability to employ a diplomatic surge on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “Despite his assertions to the contrary, the president’s rhetoric and actions today directly threaten U.S. national security and damage our credibility and reputation on the world stage.”

Cardin added that Trump has failed to implement sanctions on Iran passed in the July bill that also included Russia and North Korea, “and has chosen a path that makes addressing all other elements of a comprehensive Iran policy more difficult by imposing self-inflicted international isolation on the United States.”

“Not even one year into his presidency, this is one of the most dangerous and consequential decisions the president has made imperiling U.S. national security,” he charged.

Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) noted that over the past several months his panel has been working closely with the State Department, National Security Council and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) “to develop a legislative strategy to address bipartisan concerns about the JCPOA without violating U.S. commitments.”

Corker said he looks forward “to working closely with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to build support for legislation based on the shared goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.”

Cotton said that lawmakers “need to do now what we couldn’t do two years ago: unite around an Iran strategy that truly stops Iran’s nuclear weapons program and empowers the United States and our allies to combat the full spectrum of Iran’s imperial aggression.”

“The legislation Senator Corker and I have been working on with the administration will address the major flaws in the original Iran deal: the sunset clauses, the weak inspections regime, and the failure to restrict Iran’s development of advanced centrifuges,” he said. “And it will create time and leverage for firm diplomacy-together with our allies-to work and neutralize the threat of a nuclear Iran permanently.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he welcomed Trump’s decision and wants to hear more details about the administration’s full strategy.

Despite a “long track record of Iranian malign activities,” McCain said. “the Obama administration consistently treated Iran narrowly as a non-proliferation problem rather than as a geopolitical one — this legacy of failure casts a long shadow on our present situation.”