President Trump faces a series of pivotal challenges at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week, but among the most fraught foreign policy questions for the new president is what he will do with the Iran nuclear accord.
Trump blasted the agreement in his address to the international body Tuesday, calling it “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
“We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” Trump said, warning other world leaders, “I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it.”
Trump must soon decide whether to recertify Iran’s compliance with the deal or set off a chain reaction that could end in the U.S. snapping sanctions back into place and effectively destroying the accord. But as America’s allies continue to support what’s formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, doing so could force America to once again stand alone on the world stage, with potentially disastrous consequences.
The next deadline
Trump signed waivers on nuclear sanctions against Iran again Thursday, keeping the U.S. in compliance with its end of the agreement that offered Iran relief from crippling international sanctions in exchange for inspections on its nuclear facilities and limits on its nuclear capabilities.
But all eyes are on the next deadline, Oct. 14, when the administration must certify to Congress that Iran is meeting its obligations under the agreement and that the deal remains in line with U.S. national security interests.
That certification is required every 90 days under U.S. law. And although it is not as part of the agreement itself, it is now in jeopardy by Trump’s own admission.
After the last certification in July, Trump told the Wall Street Journal he expected to not do so again the next time, saying, “If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago.”
Option 1: Stop signing sanctions waivers
If Trump really wanted to end the deal, he could stop waiving U.S. sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program on his own, which would be a “material” breach of the agreement that would effectively destroy it and allow Iran to walk away. If that happens and the deal unravels, and Iran is able to (depending on who you ask) resume or accelerate its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, the administration would likely face the brunt of the…