Two amendments made in order to the House Appropriations package, H.R. 3354, risk pushing the U.S. into violation of its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by blocking the sale of civilian aircraft to Iran. In so doing, these amendments would cost the U.S. economy tens of billions of dollars and up to a hundred thousand jobs while depriving ordinary Iranians of safer air travel. Particularly in light of the Trump administration’s repeated and escalating threats to unravel the JCPOA, NIAC Action urges Representatives to reject these foolhardy and self-damaging amendments.
Violations of the JCPOA
Amendment 36, from Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and Doug Lamborn (R-CO), would bar the U.S. Treasury Department from licensing the sale of aircraft to Iran under the JCPOA, thus pushing the U.S. into violation of its commitments to enable such sales under the JCPOA. Specifically, the amendment prohibits the use of funds made available to the Treasury Department to issue a license pursuant to any licensing policy promulgated in accordance with § 5.1.1 of Annex II of the JCPOA. This section of the JCPOA commits the United States to allow for (i.e., license) the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran. This would be a clear violation of the JCPOA and threaten Iran’s continued adherence to its nuclear commitments.
Amendment 37, also from Rep. Roskam, would further threaten U.S. compliance under the JCPOA by barring U.S. financial institutions from engaging in licensed aircraft sales to Iran. The amendment prohibits the United States Department of the Treasury from using the funds made available to it to authorize a transaction by a U.S. financial institution that is ordinarily incident to the export or re-export of a commercial passenger aircraft to Iran. Such an amendment could risk derailing the licensed sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran – particularly insofar as U.S. companies, such as Boeing, are engaged in such sales and require receipt of the proceeds of such sales in their U.S. bank accounts – and upending U.S. commitments under the JCPOA. Under the JCPOA, the United States is obligated to “refrain from imposing exceptional…regulatory and procedural requirements in lieu of the sanctions” lifted under the nuclear agreement. Prohibiting U.S. banks from being engaged in the licensed sale of aircraft to Iran – despite the fact that such engagement would be “ordinarily incident” to a given transaction – would risk violating this provision – amongst others – of the JCPOA.
The Obama administration, which was committed to sustaining the JCPOA, threatened to veto similar legislation to Amendment 37 – H.R. 5711 – which passed the House in a largely partisan vote in November of 2016. According to the administration’s veto threat:
The bill (H.R. 5711) prohibits the U.S. government from authorizing transactions by U.S. financial institutions in connection with the export or re-export of commercial passenger aircraft to the Government of Iran or Iranian entities and mandates the revocation of any such licenses already issued. Without the ability to license these transactions, the United States will be unable to fulfill one of its JCPOA commitments to the detriment of U.S. companies, foreign partners, and the world. The commitment to license these transactions, clearly outlined in the JCPOA text, has been clear since the conclusion of the JCPOA in July 2015 and as briefed publicly by this Administration, including during the robust congressional debate on the JCPOA. Attempts at this juncture to preclude implementation of U.S. commitments are in bad faith.
Costing the U.S. Economy
In obstructing the Boeing deal with Iran, the Roskam-Zeldin-Lamborn amendments would cancel a sale that would inject tens of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, which Boeing estimates would support nearly 100,000 new jobs.
Iran Air has agreed to purchase 80 aircraft from Boeing for a list price of $16.6 billion, in addition to leasing 29 additional aircraft that could be worth tens of billions of dollars more, with deliveries running from 2018 through 2025. Boeing also has a tentative agreement with Iran’s Aseman airlines to sell additional aircraft that would be worth roughly $3 billion.
By blocking Iran from paying American companies for civilian aircraft, costing billions in lost economic opportunities and tens of thousands of jobs, the Roskam-Zeldin-Lamborn amendments would needlessly cut off the nose to spite the face.
Harming Humanitarian Interests in Iran
Part of the reason the JCPOA permitted the sale of U.S. aircraft to Iran was humanitarian need, as sanctions have barred Iran from updating its aging and unsafe air fleet. The Roskam-Zeldin-Lamborn amendments would unravel this needed humanitarian gesture.
There have been over 200 accidents involving Iranian aircraft over the past 25 years, leading to more than 2,000 deaths. Many in Iran, who generally hold positive views of the United States, blame U.S. sanctions for the country’s notoriously unsafe civilian aviation sector.
Iran Air’s fleet age is twice the international average, with an average fleet age of 26.3 years. By comparison, Virgin America has an average fleet age of 6.3 years, JetBlue has an average age of 8.7 years, American Airlines has an average age of 10.9 years, and Southwest has an average age of 12.3 years.
In 2010, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley stated, “We want to see the Iranian people have the same opportunities to travel, to engage as others in the region and around the world have. And the only thing that’s impeding Iran from having that kind of relationship with the United States and the rest of the world is the government and policies of Iran. If they change their policies, if they meet their obligations then certainly, as we continue to offer the prospect of engagement and a different kind of relationship, that depends squarely on what Iran does and what policies it chooses to pursue.” With the completion of the JCPOA, and Iran’s implementation of constraints on its nuclear program under the agreement, it is essential that the U.S. make good on its promise to allow the sale of civilian aircraft to Iran.
On October 30th, President Donald J. Trump is required to impose the sanctions applicable with respect to a foreign person designated pursuant to Executive Order 13224 on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and foreign persons that are officials, agents, or affiliates of the IRGC. During Senate consideration of legislation that was folded into the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), NIAC Action repeatedly expressed its concern to legislators that this provision would lead to the effective designation of the IRGC as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) pursuant to E.O. 13224. A designation of a foreign military as a terrorist group, NIAC Action argued, would be unprecedented, run counter to a decade of warnings from the Pentagon and endanger U.S. troops – particularly those operating in close proximity to IRGC-linked forces in Iraq and Syria. Republican and Democratic sponsors of the legislation, however, countered that this provision did not require the President to designate the IRGC an SDGT, but merely to impose sanctions applicable with respect to the IRGC.
Section 105 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
As a technical matter, Section 105 of CAATSA merely requires the President to impose blocking sanctions on the IRGC and those the President determines to be its officials, agents, or affiliates. However, those seeking to undermine the foundations of the Iran nuclear accord are urging the President to go beyond the plain text of this provision and designate the IRGC an SDGT under E.O. 13224 – a move that would inflict grave damage to U.S. national security interests, all the while providing the U.S. no additional sanctions leverage with respect to the IRGC. President Trump and the U.S. agencies delegated the authority to implement this mandate should strictly adhere to its plain text and affirm the imposition of blocking sanctions on the IRGC without taking additional designation action. Doing otherwise risks both undermining the successful implementation of the Iran nuclear accord and enveloping the United States in military conflict with Iran, all the while betraying the understanding of the legislation’s original sponsors.
Both the original sponsors of the bill and outside advocates shared this understanding. For instance, during the bill’s mark-up, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) repeatedly stated that the provision does not designate the IRGC an SDGT, but merely imposes the sanctions applicable with respect to an SDGT to the IRGC (i.e., blocking sanctions). Similarly, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) noted in its bill summary that the provision “imposes terrorism-related sanctions on [the IRGC],” a noted distinction from designating the IRGC a terrorist group. As a result, both the plain text of Section 105 and the original intent of the bill’s drafters caution the President against designating the IRGC an SDGT in favor of imposing the sanctions applicable with respect to an SDGT on the IRGC.
Current U.S. Sanctions Targeting the IRGC
The IRGC is currently designated under three U.S. sanctions programs, including for their role in Iran’s ballistic missile program and Iran’s human rights abuses. Each designation imposes blocking sanctions on the IRGC, as well as a general prohibition on U.S. person dealings with the IRGC. In addition, current U.S. sanctions impose tough restrictions on foreign parties – including foreign financial institutions – transacting or otherwise dealing with the IRGC and those expressly determined to be officials, agents, or affiliates of the IRGC. Together, these U.S. sanctions have effectively severed the IRGC from the global financial system, all the while eroding the IRGC’s ability to conduct cross-border commercial dealings.
No Action Needed to Implement Section 105
Because the IRGC is currently the subject of blocking sanctions, neither President Trump nor the U.S. agencies delegated the authority to implement the legislative mandate identified in Section 105 of CAATSA are required to take any additional action to implement that provision. As discussed above, Section 105 of CAATSA merely requires the President to impose blocking sanctions on the IRGC. However, the IRGC is the subject of blocking sanctions under multiple U.S. sanctions programs at present, and any additional steps to impose blocking sanctions would be duplicative of existing measures, conferring no further sanctions leverage over the IRGC. For this reason, President Trump or the agencies to which he has delegated authority to carry out Section 105 should provide notice that the IRGC is currently the subject of blocking sanctions and that the legislative mandate laid down in Section 105 is thus satisfied. Such notice would clearly suffice to fulfill Section 105’s requirements.
Dangers of Taking Additional Action
Despite the ease with which the President can satisfy Section 105’s requirements, some opponents of the Iran nuclear accord are encouraging the President to take action that goes beyond the plain text of Section 105 – i.e., to designate the IRGC an SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224. Such a move, however, would betray not just the plain text of Section 105, but also the intent of the bill’s drafters. Original sponsors of the legislation made clear that Section 105 (or its earlier iterations) did not designate the IRGC an SDGT, but merely imposed the sanctions applicable with respect to an SDGT on the IRGC. For instance, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) stated repeatedly during the bill’s mark-up that this legislative provision would not designate the IRGC an SDGT. Similarly, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) noted that the bill would “apply terrorism sanctions against [the IRGC], [but would not] designate them as a terrorist entity.” This distinction is built into the plain text of Section 105 of CAATSA, reflecting the intent of its drafters, and efforts to push President Trump to designate the IRGC an SDGT would betray the purpose of this legislative mandate.
Such a designation would also confer no additional sanctions leverage over Iran – as the designation would merely duplicate existing U.S. sanctions targeting the IRGC – all the while undermining important U.S. national security interests. For instance, designating the IRGC – which is regarded as a central component of Iran’s armed forces – a terrorist group could lead to deadly repercussions for U.S. military personnel sharing the battlefield with the IRGC and IRGC-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, a fact that the U.S. military itself has warned about for more than a decade now. The IRGC could set loose Iran-backed militias in Iraq to resume the targeting of American troops, as occurred during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. If the IRGC were to respond by targeting American troops, that could lead to an escalatory conflict between the U.S. and Iran – one that could prove the death knell for the Iran nuclear accord and the start of a new war in the Middle East. Such devastating consequences for U.S. security interests would be the result of imposing a designation on the IRGC that has no effective sanctions consequences favorable to the United States.
Donald Trump’s illegal Muslim Ban Executive Orders have been knocked down by the courts twice. Now he is trying another way to implement his discriminatory agenda: new “extreme vetting” requirements in visa applications.
If approved, this policy would be devastating for our communities. It would let the Trump Administration gather huge amounts of personal data about visa applicants, including their social media history for the past five years and their travel history for the past fifteen years. The Trump Administration would then be able to use this vast amount of information to reject visas; if they wrongly reject someone’s visa application, it is very hard to fight that decision.
Collecting this social media information is particularly frightening. We have already seen cases where visas were denied because U.S. government officials misunderstood innocent social media posts. Collecting this information on such a vast scale is sure to lead to widespread rejection of visas for inappropriate reasons, and the language about who can be targeted for this information collection is so broad that it can encompass huge groups of people. Given this administration’s unchecked xenophobia and Islamophobia, this policy is sure to be used very heavily against Iranians and other individuals from countries targeted by Trump’s Muslim Ban Executive Order.
The Trump Administration is once again trying to push a Muslim Ban, this time by calling it “extreme vetting.” We should not be fooled. Take action today to protect our communities from this Backdoor Ban!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Washington, D.C. – Jamal Abdi, of NIAC Action, issued the following statement regarding Steve Bannon’s dismissal from the White House:
“Steve Bannon should have been fired a long time ago for the Muslim ban that he helped enact in Trump’s first week in office. Today’s news is welcome, but it is overdue and is only the beginning. For many of us, Donald Trump’s presidency is irreparably damaged because the problem isn’t just Bannon or pro-war racist ideologues like Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller. The problem is with Trump himself.
“Trump’s response to violent White supremacist and Nazi movements should make abundantly clear what many of us have known for a long time: Trump’s policies, such as the Muslim ban, are not based in anything but racism. Even with Bannon gone, this White House will likely continue to enact an agenda that targets communities like ours that completely lacks a valid security justification and is based in a racist and retrograde ideology. If Trump and his chief of staff John Kelly are serious about changing course, they must end the administration’s systematic targeting of minority and immigrant communities. That includes, among other things, dismantling the Muslim ban and the extreme vetting program that continues to punish Iranian-American families and other American communities.
“Bannon’s firing also will not address the impending foreign policy disasters that Trump is heading into. Bannon was reportedly assigned by Trump to come up with ways to kill the Iran deal and to set the stage for a potential war with Iran. But it was Trump himself who wanted to kill the deal and who appears obsessed with undoing any achievement by the preceding administration, including the historic diplomatic agreement. Unless Trump changes, we are still headed towards disaster on that front.
“We thank and applaud all of our members, as well as the lawmakers and individuals across the country who took action and called for Bannon’s dismissal. Together, we are learning to stand up for one another and fight for our shared values against hate and bigotry. Instead of becoming victims of Donald Trump without agency, the groundswell of civic action that has grown in reaction to the current president will enable all of us to build a more peaceful, democratic, tolerant, and united America for future generations.”
With Trump abetting these horrific groups, we must urge members of Congress to take a strong and unequivocal stand against white-supremacy and neo-Nazis and condemn Trump’s failure of leadership, including by passing a resolution to officially censure Trump for his inexcusable remarks. A resolution of censure has already been introduced in the House by Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Pramila Jayapal.
There are individuals serving in our government, in Trump’s White House, who are actively working to turn the white supremacist vision of those who rallied in Charlottesville into official policy – Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Seb Gorka all need to be fired.
Already emailed your members of Congress? Call 1-844-ACT-NIAC (1-844-228-6422) to be connected with all of your lawmakers.
>> Take action today by ensuring your lawmakers stand against white supremacists in the White House and their bigoted agenda!
With Congress’ recent passage of new sanctions legislation and the Trump administration’s increasingly confrontational position towards Iran, the Iran nuclear deal is in jeopardy and the dangers of a U.S.-Iran confrontation are rising. Meanwhile, Trump continues to defend his ban against Iranians and the Supreme Court may side with him when it issues a final decision in the fall.
We need the many lawmakers who were supporters of the deal to defend it and pushback against those who want to start a war. We need our elected representatives to have our backs and fight to repeal Trump’s Muslim ban. And we need those lawmakers who favor killing the nuclear deal and banning our families to feel real political consequences from their voters.
As Members of Congress head to their districts for recess the month of August, we have a major opportunity to hold them accountable, press them to take action, and hear our voices this month at town hall meetings.
Attend a Town Hall
Visit TownHallProject.com and enter your zip code to find a town hall event with your Members of Congress.
NOTE: Sometimes town halls are announced well in advance, and sometimes, although they are technically “public,” only select constituents are notified about them shortly before the event. If you can’t find announcements online, call your member of Congress to find out directly (you can call Congress via 1-844-ACT-NIAC to be connected to your members of Congress). When you call, be friendly and say to the staffer, “Hi, I’m a constituent, and I’d like to know when his/her next town hall forum will be.” If they don’t know, ask to be added to the email list so that you get notified when they do. You can also stress how important it is to you that they hold a town hall for their constituents. (Source: Indivisible Guide)
You Found a Town Hall to Attend – Now What?
- Tell us if you’re planning to attend a town hall by filling out this form.
- We will contact you and send you any resources you need – including printable signs, sample questions to ask, connecting you with any NIAC Action volunteers we have in your area and what to expect at the town hall.
- Make sure to note where the town hall is located, what time to arrive, directions, parking info and if you need to RSVP to attend. Invite other friends to join you, as well!
We must constantly be holding politicians accountable to the citizens whom they are elected to represent. A town hall meeting is your chance to confront your elected leaders about the issues you care about. YOU have the power to define the agenda and be heard.
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org – Subject: Town Halls
Trump Preparing to Dismantle the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
- Trump must certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA; failing to do so will trigger an expedited Congressional procedure to reinstate sanctions.
- Trump has indicated he will not certify Iranian compliance on the next certification deadline, October 15.
- Trump reportedly spent fifty-five minutes of a meeting on July 17 refusing to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA despite the urging of his top national security advisers.
Despite Trump’s Claims, Iran Has Complied with the JCPOA
- The IAEA has verified that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA through six separate reports dating back to January 2015.
- The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul Selva, testified before Congress in July: “Based on the evidence that’s been presented to the intelligence community, it appears that Iran is in compliance with the rules that were laid out in the JCPOA.”
- Representatives of the P5+1 – including the U.S. – “welcomed the latest report from the IAEA verifying Iran’s continued adherence to its nuclear-related commitments” in a statement issued at the July meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission.
- Trump’s recent remarks urging the G-20 to stop doing business with Iran may have been a U.S. JCPOA violation. Under the accord, the U.S. is obligated to refrain from any policy that would undermine the normalization of economic ties with Iran.
The Trump Administration is Using the Iraq War Playbook on Iran
- A team of hawkish White House advisers has been tasked by Trump with laying the groundwork to refuse certification by the next 90 day review on October 15.
- Trump’s team is searching for intelligence to fit the chosen policy as well as manufacturing a crisis over WMDs without any evidence similar to the “Office of Special Plans” that built the case for the Iraq invasion under Bush II.
- An Associated Press report indicates the administration is seeking military site inspections in Iran without convincing evidence of any illicit Iranian nuclear activities at the sites. This effort is solely an attempt to force Iran to reject the request and create a basis to withdraw from the accord.
Decertification Would Fatally Undermine the JCPOA While Isolating the U.S.
- If Trump refuses to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA in October, he will trigger an expedited Congressional process to reinstate sanctions that had been lifted or waived under the JCPOA. Alternatively, he could snap back sanctions using his own Executive power.
- If the U.S. snaps back sanctions, Iran would likely use this as a pretext to withdraw from the JCPOA while pinning the blame on the United States. Sharp limits on nuclear activities and expansive monitoring over Iran’s entire nuclear program would end, while the threat of war would greatly escalate.
- If Trump kills the deal he would isolate the U.S. as our fellow negotiating partners would not follow us and could take steps to limit the reach of U.S. sanctions. With Iran moving toward an undetectable nuclear breakout capability and the U.S. and Iran moving toward war, the U.S. would be left with little leverage and no good options.
- New York Times Editorial Board, Avoiding War With Iran, Editorial Board–July 20, 2017
“The last thing the United States needs is another war in the Middle East. Yet a drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions — from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists — is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran.”
- Los Angeles Times Editorial Board, “Stop playing games with the Iranian nuclear deal” July 22, 2017
“It’s time for Trump to stop playing games with U.S. support for the nuclear agreement. So long as Iran complies with the terms, the U.S. should live up to its obligations.”
- USA Today Editorial Board, “Iran nuclear deal is working” July 20, 2017
“The agreement is working. With a few minor exceptions that have nothing to do with proliferation — each quickly corrected when discovered by inspectors — Tehran has abided by limits on stockpiles of low-enriched uranium, heavy water for nuclear plant operation and centrifuges for enriching uranium. Last year, for example, Iran poured concrete into the core of its only heavy-water plant capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, ruining it.”
 Trump Recertifies Iran Nuclear Deal, but Only Reluctantly, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/17/us/politics/trump-iran-nuclear-deal-recertify.html
 IAEA and Iran – IAEA reports, https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/iran/iaea-and-iran-iaea-reports
 U.S. Military Chief: Tehran Has Complied With Iran Deal, https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-07-18/us-military-chief-tehran-has-complied-with-iran-deal
 Chair’s statement following the 21 July 2017 meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission, https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/30249/chairs-statement-following-21-july-2017-meeting-jcpoa-joint-commission_fr
 Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/07/10/press-briefing-principal-deputy-press-secretary-sarah-sanders-and
 Trump Assigns White House Team to Target Iran Nuclear Deal, Sidelining State Department, http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/07/21/trump-assigns-white-house-team-to-target-iran-nuclear-deal-sidelining-state-department/amp/
 Will Trump follow the Bush playbook and start a war with Iran?, http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2017/06/cherry-picking-intelligence-war-middle-east-here-we-go-again/139030/
 AP sources: US seeks to test Iran deal with more inspections, https://apnews.com/721fdd1bf86d4c9aa8b3b18c603ea60e/AP-sources:-US-seeks-to-test-Iran-deal-with-more-inspections
Our opponents are busy planting the seeds for Trump to kill the deal. We can defeat them, but only if we speak out and rally our champions like Senator Sanders to defend what we’ve fought so hard to achieve.
Anyone who followed the lead up to the Iraq war should see the warning signs with Trump and Iran. Trump has said he expects to refuse to certify Iran’s compliance with the accord in October, a step that would almost certainly trigger the death of the deal.
Fill out the form on the left to contact Congress now and tell YOUR lawmakers to speak out like Sen. Sanders to defend the Iran nuclear deal today!
*Select the checkbox to sign up for email updates on the nuclear deal and NIAC Action issues.
While many have been silent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has shown courage and leadership.
Progressives must get mobilized to protect the Iran Nuclear agreement, just as we did with the Affordable Care Act. pic.twitter.com/LDJXbjdm0b
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) July 31, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: (206) 369-2069
Washington, D.C. – Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement in response to the passage of the ‘‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’’:
“This will be the first new Iran sanctions bill signed into law since before negotiations even began on the interim nuclear deal. There is likely to be significant blowback that undermines the nuclear accord and makes it easier for Trump to put the nail in the coffin of the deal. Those who voted for this are either rooting for that outcome or hoping it’s not the case.
“After three and a half decades of failed pressure policies, the U.S. finally found a successful way to impact Iranian policies through diplomacy. Congress is now following Trump’s lead by abandoning that successful approach and returning to the self-defeating pressure track. The result is predictable: more missile tests, more hostility from Iran, and more undermining of U.S. national security. This is what happens when politics trumps reason, experience and logic.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: (206) 369-2069
Washington, D.C. – Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement in response to the passage of the ‘‘Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act’’:
“This is the worst possible time and the worst possible conditions for Congress to be giving Trump new tools to kill the Iran deal. Regardless of good intent, lawmakers risk giving Trump a green light to unravel the Iran nuclear deal and set the stage for a disastrous war of choice with Iran. Regardless of any perceived benefit in taking a stand against Russia or North Korea, it is foolhardy to expect that Trump will use his newfound Iran sanctions authorities with restraint.
“Trump is following the Iraq war playbook with Iran by demanding that his staff produce a justification to withdraw from the nuclear accord. Many former officials and experts believe that Trump will fail to recertify the nuclear accord in October – regardless of Iran’s actions. Yet, Congress is putting it’s faith in this President to protect the nuclear deal and America’s national security interests. If Trump chooses to use his newly acquired authorities to undermine the implementation of an accord that is preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, Congress will bear a large burden of the responsibility for the crisis to come.”
According to Foreign Policy, Trump has tasked White House staffers with laying the groundwork to potentially withhold certification at the next 90 day review of the JCPOA this fall. Chief White House Strategist Steve Bannon and Advisor to the President Seb Gorka are reportedly among those staffers involved in making the case for decertification.
The new initiative – a task force dedicated to searching for intelligence to justify a decision not to certify – harkens back to the push for war with Iraq in 2002, when Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith cherry picked intelligence to help make the case for overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
The Trump administration is considering downgrading the State Department’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation by merging it into the Bureau of Near East Affairs. Such a move would risk reducing the State Department’s ability to effectively monitor Iranian compliance.
At a White House press briefing on July 10, 2017, then Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated that, while meeting with foreign leaders at the G-20 Summit, President Trump urged nations to come together and “to stop doing business with nations that sponsor terrorism, especially Iran.” This contradicts express U.S. obligations under the JCPOA not to deter others to normalize trade with Iran. See JCPOA ¶¶ 28-29.
These warning signs have not gone unnoticed, as major editorials, former officials and political commentators have noted the drift toward unnecessary conflict with Iran:
New York Times, Avoiding War With Iran, Editorial Board–July 20, 2017“The last thing the United States needs is another war in the Middle East. Yet a drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions — from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists — is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran.”
New Yorker, Is The Nuclear Deal With Iran Slipping Away?, Robin Wright–July 19, 2017“At least three major U.S. allies have sent their ambassadors to Iran to Washington, to try to convince the new Administration to support the accord—and to explain Iran to Trump Administration staffers who were not involved in the diplomacy. Trump appears willing to chart a risky course, whatever the repercussions.”
Los Angeles Times, Stop playing games with the Iranian nuclear deal, Editorial Board–July 22, 2017“It’s time for Trump to stop playing games with U.S. support for the nuclear agreement. So long as Iran complies with the terms, the U.S. should live up to its obligations.”
USA Today, Iran nuclear deal is working–July 20, 2017“The agreement is working. With a few minor exceptions that have nothing to do with proliferation — each quickly corrected when discovered by inspectors — Tehran has abided by limits on stockpiles of low-enriched uranium, heavy water for nuclear plant operation and centrifuges for enriching uranium. Last year, for example, Iran poured concrete into the core of its only heavy-water plant capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, ruining it.”
The New Republic, Nuclear Summer, Colin Kahl–July 14, 2017“But even if Trump doesn’t torpedo the Iran deal directly, he could wind up scuttling the agreement by pushing Iran into a corner. In the coming months, the president is likely to embrace a much more aggressive posture toward Tehran, including more sanctions, more military exercises in the region, interdicting more Iranian vessels, selling more arms to Israel and Arab states, and taking direct action against Iran’s militant proxies—moves that could serve to escalate tensions and increase the likelihood of a military confrontation.”
Washington Post, The U.S. and Iran are heading toward crisis, Ishaan Tharoor–July 19, 2017“Iran remains the president’s No. 1 geopolitical bugbear. Trump, who seems determined to smash every pillar of former president Barack Obama’s legacy, repeatedly cast the deal as a capitulation to the Islamic Republic. The only memorable event in the short-lived tenure of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn was his cryptic statement ‘officially putting Iran on notice.’ In Saudi Arabia, on his first foreign visit, Trump signed on to Riyadh’s vision for the Middle East — one that is shaped first and foremost by antipathy toward Tehran.”
Iran reduced its installed centrifuges by two-thirds.
The time it would take Iran to enrich sufficient uranium for a single nuclear weapon has increased from 2-3 months under the interim deal to a full year under the JCPOA.
Iran’s enrichment level is now capped at 3.67%, far below weapons grade.
Iran’s uranium stockpile was cut by 97%, a fraction of the amount needed for a single nuclear weapon with further enrichment.
The core of the Arak reactor was destroyed and Iran will redesign the facility so that it will not produce weapons grade plutonium.
Iran is voluntarily implementing the IAEA Additional Protocol and will later seek its ratification, ensuring expanded inspector access throughout Iran’s entire nuclear program, enhancing the IAEA’s ability to detect any potential Iranian cheating.