Trump Puts Iran Nuclear Deal in Hands of Congress

Adam Edelman and Andrea Mitchell and Jonathan Allen

President Donald Trump is expected to put the 2015 Iran nuclear deal squarely in the hands of Congress, refusing to certify that Iran is compliance with the deal but letting lawmakers decide whether to tear it up.

Congress will now have to decide if they will reimpose sanctions on Iran with regard to the country’s nuclear program, or attach new conditions to the agreement. Those sanctions were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement, and reimposing them would effectively destroy the deal, known as the JCPOA.

Getting a decision on sanctions out of Congress — which has been unable to agree on any significant legislation this year — is considered unlikely, meaning the status quo on the Iran agreement could remain.

The announcement is expected to come in a noontime speech by Trump.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster confirmed Trump’s decision to reporters Thursday afternoon, explaining the goal for the move was to have Congress create “trigger points” for Iran that would mandate the re-imposition of sanctions if Tehran doesn’t meet specific revised criteria.

One such area might include the deal’s “sunset clause,” which has it expiring 10 years after it goes into effect, two senior administration officials and a person familiar with the ongoing policy discussions told NBC News.

Tillerson, however, admitted “we don’t disagree” that Iran is “technically compliant” with the deal currently, but that Trump had requested he and McMaster “put more teeth” into the agreement.

McMaster told senators last week that while Trump was poised to decertify Iran’s compliance, he will not ask Congress to pass new sanctions. That would suggest Trump’s move to decertify may be aimed primarily to appeal to his base, since it does not lead to either withdrawal from the Iran deal or new sanctions — both of which would isolate the U.S. and anger allies.

Without reinstating sanctions that have been waived in return for Iran’s agreeing to suspend its nuclear program, the accord would effectively be left in place.

In his speech Friday, Trump is expected to outline a more aggressive overall strategy with Iran that will focus on the country’s “destabilizing influence” in the region, “particularly its support for terrorism and militants,” as well as on its development of ballistic missiles.




Image: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens to anchor Charlie Rose, at an event held in conjunction with the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 27, 2017.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif listens to anchor Charlie Rose, at an event held in conjunction with the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 27, 2017.