As was expected, President Trump has decertified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal or, to give it its full name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), despite the fact that he certified it twice before. As recently as 14 September 2017, Trump also waived certain sanctions against Iran as required under the terms of the deal. Yet, in an extremely belligerent and hostile speech, he put out his new policy towards Iran.
The certification of the deal is not part of the agreement, but as anti-Iranian hawks in both parties wanted to undermine President Barrack Obama and create obstacles on the path of the deal they required the president to recertify every 90 days that Iran was still in compliance with the provisions of the deal. That certification has no international validity.
Trump provided a long list of contentious issues about Iran’s alleged malign influences in the region and her presumed violation of the JCPOA, while totally ignoring America’s long record of unilateral wars and war crimes and initial support for terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and beyond. By law, Congress has 60 days to reimpose sanctions on Iran, which would violate the provisions of the JCPOA, or leave matters as they are. Given the predominance of hawks in Congress, it is likely that they will follow Trump’s lead and will try to kill the deal.
During the campaign, Trump often criticized the deal as the worst agreement in history and promised that he would tear it up. In his inaugural address to the UN General Assembly, Trump proclaimed that the Iran deal “was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States had ever entered into,” even declaring its as “an embarrassment to the United States.” He ominously warned that the world had not “heard the last of it, believe me.” Now, by decertifying Iran’s compliance with the deal, Trump has lived up to his hyperbolic rhetoric about the agreement that was regarded as one of the most remarkable diplomatic achievements since the end of the Cold War.
He is doing this at a time when his administration is in disarray when none of his major bills has been ratified by Congress when the threat of terrorism in the Middle East has not yet ended when US-supported Saudi Arabia’s disastrous war against Yemen is still continuing killing and wounding scores of people in that poverty-stricken country every day, and above all when Trump’s threat of “fire and fury the like of which the world has never seen” against North Korea has not worked and that dangerous standoff still continues. In the midst of all this, he has decided to add yet another completely unnecessary conflict to the list and to isolate the United States further in the world.
First of all, it is important to point out that the JCPOA is not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States that can be unilaterally abrogated by a U.S. president. It was an agreement reached between Iran and all the five permanent members of the Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States) plus Germany.
As the result of that landmark deal, Iran has removed two-thirds of its centrifuges and has stopped building more advanced centrifuges that she had started installing. She has altered its heavy-water nuclear reactor to remove its capacity to produce weapons-grade plutonium, has surrendered 98 per cent of its nuclear material, has joined the Additional Protocol, and has submitted to intrusive inspections by the IAEA to verify compliance. Since the implementation of the agreement, on eight different occasions, the International Atomic Energy Agency has certified Iran’s full compliance with her commitments under the deal. After the so-called sunset clauses expire, Iran as a member of the NPT and the Additional Protocol will continue to remain under IAEA inspection and will be prevented from building a nuclear weapon.
In return for that major compromise in her nuclear program, all nuclear-related sanctions were supposed to be lifted, enabling Iran to have normal economic and banking relations with the rest of the world. This landmark non-proliferation deal was achieved without a shot being fired and without another devastating war in the Middle East.
The fact that Trump has probably not even bothered to read or understand the agreement, which was the result of many years of intense and painstaking discussion and debate by the best experts from seven countries, including the U.S. Energy Secretary who is a nuclear expert, is beside the point. Some of those who surround him and write his speeches, and most notably his mentor, the right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, have told him that it was a bad deal and that is enough for him.