President Trump’s contempt for his predecessor’s chief foreign policy accomplishment, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the nuclear deal with Iran, is no secret. On the campaign trail, he routinely called it one of the “worst” and “stupidest” agreements in history, and he pledged to dismantle it. Now, in his first speech before the UN General Assembly, Trump has suggested that if he has his way, the United States won’t continue to implement it.
During his speech, Trump described the deal as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into” and “an embarrassment to the United States.” And he pledged once again to take action on it, stating, “And I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it. Believe me.” The president justified his position, arguing, “We cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.” Of course, the JCPOA doesn’t provide “cover” for Iran’s nuclear program; its nuclear program is the very subject of deal. Nevertheless, the speech implied that the administration won’t be sticking to the agreement much longer.
In mid-October, Trump must announce his administration’s approach to the JCPOA. As part of the agreement’s implementation, the president must certify to Congress every 90 days that Tehran is (or isn’t) complying with its obligations under the agreement. If the president communicates to Congress that Iran isn’t complying, or simply fails to certify that it is complying, he kicks the ball over to Congress for new potential sanctions to be imposed on the country.