VOA — President Donald Trump is expected to announce within days that he will no longer certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, giving Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. By law, the president has until October 15 to decide, but White House sources said the action might come sooner.
“The president has reached a decision on an overall Iran strategy and wants to make sure we have a broad policy to deal with that, not just one part of it, to deal with all of the problems of Iran being a bad actor,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday.
Trump tipped his hand last month in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly.
“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” he said.
Calling the agreement “an embarrassment to the United States,” Trump said, “I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it.”
A decision not to recertify would not void the deal, which Iran reached with the United States and other world powers to suspend its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of nuclear-related economic sanctions. It also does not automatically bring the previous sanctions back into force. But many experts think it could set in motion a process that could snap sanctions back into place and result in undoing the accord.
FILE – British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, to attend the prime minister’s questions at the Houses of Parliament, Sept. 13, 2017.
European leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, have been in touch with Trump in recent days to try to persuade him not to back away from the accord. May called the president Tuesday to “reaffirm the U.K.’s strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners, saying it was vitally important for regional security,” according to a readout issued by the prime minister’s office.
“Mrs. May and the president also discussed the need for the U.K., U.S. and others to work together to counter destabilizing Iranian activity in the region,” the statement said.
A White House statement about the call said the leaders discussed denying Iran “all paths” to a nuclear weapon.
“President Trump underscored the need to work together to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its malign and destabilizing activities, especially its sponsorship of terrorism and its development of threatening missiles.”
Several experts and former officials have warned that U.S. credibility and trustworthiness are also at stake.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, former U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman said repercussions from any decision to decertify Iran’s compliance with the agreement would be “disastrous.”
FILE – Then-Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 29, 2014.
“It will drive a wedge between the United States and Europe, weakening the critical trans-Atlantic relationship and increasing the influence of Iran, Russia and China,” Sherman wrote. “Washington’s credibility will be damaged for the next time we want countries to agree to something, such as condemning Iran’s malicious behavior in the Middle East or tightening the screws on North Korea.”
Sherman said ceding the moral high ground to Tehran officials, allowing them to say it was Washington, not they, who killed the deal.
The head of Iran’s nuclear agency, Ali Salehi, on Tuesday warned Washington against undermining the deal, saying international nonproliferation efforts as well as Washington’s global standing would suffer.
Speaking at an international conference in Rome on enhancing nuclear safety, Salehi said Iran does not want to see the deal fall apart, noting that “much more is at stake for the entire international community than the national interests of Iran.”
Joshua Rovner, an associate professor at the School of International Service at American University, said any unraveling of the Iran deal would have a number of lesser understood negative consequences for the United States.
“There is a danger of losing a lot of very valuable intelligence on Iran’s activities,” Rovner told VOA.
“The thing that I particularly liked about the deal was that by enabling the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to be much more intrusive in monitoring Iran, the intelligence community had an opportunity to maybe look at other things, and start to map networks of people who are moving fissile material or materials used for a nuclear program,” Rovner said.