Trump Decertified the Iran Deal, What Next?

“If we tear up the [Iran] agreement or walk away… we’re not isolating Iran,” argued Senator Chris Van Hollen on Thursday. “We’re isolating the United States and at the same time undermining our national security.”

Van Hollen spoke at Nuclear Policy in a Time of Crisis, a conference sponsored by Ploughshares Fund in Washington D.C this past Thursday. He was in good company: seven members of Congress, eight experts, two top security journalists, a former Secretary of Defense, and a Nobel Peace Laureate spoke, inter alia, about the importance of the Iran Deal.

Talk of terminating the agreement “sends an awful signal to the world that the United States cannot be counted on to keep its end of the bargain,” continued Van Hollen. “That erosion of our credibility will really create problems for our national security.”

“If the deal goes forward without the U.S. but stays in effect,” said former Carnegie Endowment President Jessica Mathews, “the U.S. is isolated internationally.” Colin Kahl, former National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden, agreed: “it would be a gaping self-inflicted wound upon the United States.”

“It would isolate the United States,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. “We know that our allies who helped work on the deal are holding up the deal, and they don’t intend to walk away from this agreement.”

President Trump’s decertification was imprudent, Van Hollen said: “it was clearly a move driven entirely by politics at the expense of our national security.” Kahl pointed out that the European allies can see through the administration’s contrivances: “it’ll be rightly perceived as a unilateral attempt to renegotiate the terms of the deal.”

“We know what the consequences are of breaking this deal,” said Rep. Barbara Lee. Not only international isolation for the United States, but “an emboldened Iran would be back on the path to develop nuclear weapons.”

President Trump’s decision to decertify was based on nonexistent evidence: “Iran has satisfied the terms of the agreement,” pointed out Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Furthermore, “the agreement is having its intended effect of cutting off Iran’s pathways toward developing a nuclear weapon,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “We know that Iran is complying with the agreement, which is exactly why Secretary of Defense Mattis told Congress on October 3 that sticking with the agreement was in the U.S. national security interest… they previously certified this agreement and there’s been nothing that’s changed, there’s been no evidence.”

The president’s decertification has kicked the can to Congress, and what they do now matters: “if the Senate were to be successful in getting sixty votes to pull out of or change the agreement, what would this say to North Korea?” asked Sen. Feinstein. “America doesn’t keep its agreements. What happens in the Senate is going to be fundamental in terms of sustaining the JCPOA.”

“Any legislation to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) is a deal killer,” warned Rep. Lee. Sen. Van Hollen elaborated: “Senators Corker and Cotton are in the process of working up legislation to amend INARA. They will essentially be calling for a violation of the agreement – they would be calling for number one, imposing the Iran sanctions on non-nuclear related conduct; and number two, they’d be extending the sunset provisions. If you tear up an agreement, you sunset everything right now.”

Senator Van Hollen closed with a call to action: “We need to work hard to make sure that Congress does not pass that legislation or take action to immediately reimpose sanctions.” Rep. Lee agreed: “stay woke on this, and help us, with your Members of Congress, to not allow this deal to unravel.”

Ploughshares Fund livestreamed on Facebook the entirety of the Nuclear Weapons Policy in a Time of Crisis conference. The morning session, with remarks by Joe Cirincione, Rep. Barbara Lee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Ed Markey, Rep. Ted Lieu, Rep. Adam Smith, and Sec. William Perry, as well as a panel on the Future of the Iran Deal featuring Colin Kahl, Jessica Mathews, Seyed Hossein Mousavian, and Kelsey Davenport can be found here.

The afternoon session, with remarks by Sen. Van Hollen, Special Assistant to the President Christopher A. Ford, Nobel Peace Laureate Beatrice Fihn and Sen. Jeff Merkeley, and a panel on War and Peace on the Korean Peninsula featuring Suzanne DiMaggio, Carol Giacomo, Robert Gallucci and Joe Cirincione can be found here.

--Rose Blanchard is a research assistant at Ploughshares Fund.


More resources:

--“Nuclear Scientists Urge Congress to Protect Iran Deal” by Rick Gladstone for The New York Times here.

--“A Breath of Fresh Air on Nuclear Weapons Policy” by William D. Hartung for LobeLog here.

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