White House Signals They’ll Punt the Iran Agreement to Congress

During his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump said this about the Iran nuclear agreement:

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it. Believe me.

Then Wednesday, he told reporters that he has decided on a plan of action with regards to the agreement, but refused to elaborate.

For some background, the president is required to certify to Congress whether or not Iran is in compliance with the agreement every 90 days. The next deadline for Trump to do so comes on October 15th. NBC is reporting that sources within the administration suggest that the president will take action prior to that deadline.

President Donald Trump is leaning toward decertifying the Iran nuclear deal and putting the decision of whether the United States withdraw from the accord in the hands of Congress, according to four sources — including a senior administration official — familiar with the White House deliberations.

Such a move would come before an Oct. 15 deadline and would trigger a 60-day window for lawmakers to determine whether to reimpose sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program that were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement.

Of course all the caveats apply. We have learned to distrust almost everything that comes out of this administration and Trump tends to flip-flop around on these kinds of things all the time. So we’ll have to wait and see.

But the president does seem determined to throw some additional chaos into our foreign policy by upending the Iran agreement, which would send out blaring signals to the entire world that this country cannot be trusted. It would also allow Iran to immediately re-start their nuclear weapons program, causing further destabilization.

We’ve known for a while now that this is the direction Trump wants to go. So instead of re-hashing all of that, I wanted to note what this decision would mean for congressional Republicans. They have already been distracted by yet another attempt to repeal Obamacare. Republicans (and their donors) desperately want to get to the issue of tax reform before the end of the year, but that requires passage of a budget resolution first, then completion of an actual bill on tax reform. They also imposed a December deadline on getting a 2018 budget agreement completed in the deal reached with Democrats. Those are just the major issues that need to be addressed before the end of the year.

Now the White House is signaling that sometime within the next month they will start a 60 day countdown for Congress to decide whether or not to reimpose sanctions on Iran. At some point you have to wonder whether or not the Trump administration is purposefully trying to set McConnell and Ryan up for failure, or if they’re just too ignorant to recognize that’s what they’re doing.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.