Iran deal: What will Congress do?
President Trump has finally unveiled his strategy for the Iran nuclear deal—and it’s “clear as mud,” said Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky in CNN.com. The commander in chief last week refused to certify that Iran was complying with the 2015 accord, despite 427 United Nations inspections that concluded it was. But Trump didn’t kill the deal; he took advantage of a 2015 law to punt the decision to Congress, which now has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. If Congress does blow up the deal with new sanctions, the mullahs could restart their nuclear program. Trump claims he wants Congress to set “red lines” for Tehran—on issues such as the country’s ballistic missile program and its support for Hezbollah— that would, if crossed, trigger the immediate snapback of predeal sanctions. But the five other nations that signed the pact, including the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, are “implacably opposed to reopening” negotiations, and some congressional Republicans are leery of taking responsibility for killing the agreement.
Trump’s gamble could result in one of several different outcomes, said Uri Friedman in TheAtlantic.com. One “distinct possibility” is that “Congress does nothing”—leaving the deal in place. If Congress reimposes sanctions, Iran and the other signatories could “choose to remain in the deal without the U.S.” Ideally, Trump’s game of hardball pressures the other signatories into negotiating a “supplementary agreement” that would restrict Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and other aggressive behavior. Trump deserves credit for at least trying “to deter Iranian imperialism” in the region, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The naïve President Obama was so desperate to get a nuclear deal he ignored all the other ways Tehran poses a threat to U.S. interests in the region.
We all know how this will end, said Fred Kaplan in Slate.com. While his frantic Cabinet managed to persuade Trump not to destroy the deal this time, he hates it because it was “Barack Obama’s tr iumph.” Eventually, Trump will get fed up with Congress and find an excuse to blow the agreement up. This will be a “diplomatic disaster.” If the U.S. walks away, the other signatory nations may simply ignore us, leaving the U.S. with no leverage over Tehran and putting us in conflict with European nations trading with Iran. “America can’t be first if it’s all alone.”