President Trump declined to certify Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal today and called for tough new measures against the regime, but as expected, he stopped short of re-imposing the sanctions that were waived as part of the deal.
Most of Trump’s statement focused on issues other than nuclear weapons, as he reviewed the history of Iran’s “fanatical regime,” dating back to the 1979 revolution, and called it the “world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”
Trump echoed his campaign rhetoric by calling the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” He also referred, as he has many times, to what he called a “massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded on to an airplane and flown into Iran.” (These were actually Iran’s own assets, owed to the country since the U.S. froze them in 1979.) Trump seemed particularly incensed today by the deal’s sunset provisions, saying “we got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.”
Before today, Trump has twice very reluctantly certified Iran’s compliance, which he is required to do every 90 days. Those certifications acknowledged the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Iran is mostly adhering to the terms of the JCPOA. Trump briefly mentioned Iran’s documented violations of heavy water stocks and said, “Many people believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea,” but his non-certification was based primarily on the argument that Iran is “not living up to the spirit of the deal” since it “continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East.”
Trump vowed a number of actions, including cracking down on Iran’s “terrorist proxies,” placing additional sanctions on the regime to block terrorist financing, addressing Iran’s missile program, and a new crackdown on Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He also called on Congress to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act—the law that requires him to certify Iran’s compliance—to “strengthen enforcement and prevent Iran from developing an … intercontinental ballistic missile and make all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law.”
What he did not do was call on Congress to reapply the sanctions waived under the JCPOA. What this means is that, Trump’s blasting of the deal aside, the U.S. is still party to it. He did say that “in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time.”