Experts Warn Trump Plan to Toss Iran Nuclear Deal Fraught With Uncertainty

WASHINGTON (CN) – Amid reports that President Donald Trump is planning to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement, experts caution that the move could bring a great deal of uncertainty to the international accord.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that Trump plans to lay out the administration’s position that Iran is in not in compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement in a speech next week. The agreement, of which Trump has been roundly critical, provides Iran with relief from international sanctions in exchange for a curb on the country’ nuclear activities.

Struck in 2015, the deal includes the United States, the four other members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany. Trump must tell Congress by Oct. 15 whether Iran is in compliance on the deal.

Trump’s announcement would not by itself break the deal with Iran, but would send the deal into the hands of Congress, which could then choose to re-impose the sanctions that the Obama administration’s deal lifted on the country.

Dalia Dassa Kaye, the director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy at the RAND Corporation, said this would be a difficult tactic for Trump to undertake because the other countries party to the deal have said they would like it to remain in place.

“It’s a really risky gambit,” Kaye said in an interview. “It’s a dangerous gambit to say that decertification doesn’t mean we’re walking away because it puts the deal in the hands of Congress and Congress has had a strong record of passing sanctions legislation against Iran.”

But Kaye and other experts said the Trump administration’s goal would likely be to use the possibility that Congress could snap the sanctions back into place at any time to extract changes to the deal.

“The good thing about decertifying is that it doesn’t necessarily explode the deal, but it does give the administration the ability to negotiate with Iran,” Jim Phillips, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation said in a statement.

Phillips said the possibility that Congress could re-impose sanctions would give the United States additional leverage with both Iran and the other participants in the agreement.

Kaye predicted the Trump administration could target two common criticisms of the deal in a possible renegotiation: the so-called sunset provision that ends the agreement’s restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program after 2025 and another clause that allows Iran to test ballistic missiles.

But Kaye said she is “quite skeptical” that the agreement would be able to be renegotiated if Congress does not snap back the sanctions. Iran has said it will not renegotiate the deal and the European countries that signed on are unlikely to do so as well, leaving the United States little room to work.

The worst outcome, Kaye said, would be if Congress were to re-impose the sanctions, having the United States break the deal.

“The argument is, and I think rightly so, that if the deal falls apart, it is much better from a U.S. national security perspective for Iran to be the one to blame, not us,” Kaye said.

But Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, said he has heard “murmurings” about the possibility that the European countries might be willing to renegotiate the portions of the deal that people in the United States have found problematic.

“If Washington is able to get France and Germany and Britain on board to renegotiate some of those problematic provisions like the sunset clauses in the deal, the lack of any-time-anywhere-inspections, the holes in U.N. resolution 2231,  then there might be some success on that front” Brodsky said in an interview.

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