The “worst deal ever” will most likely live to see another 120 days.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that President Trump will this week extend relief from nuclear-related economic sanctions on Iran. If it seems like a procedural matter, it is, but it also means in practice that it keeps alive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran deal is known. Reinstating the sanctions would have put the United States in violation of the agreement. The president must decide every 120 days whether to waive the sanctions.
The AP cited six officials who insisted on anonymity for its reporting, but cautioned that no final decision had been made. Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state; James Mattis, the defense secretary; and H.R. McMaster, the national-security adviser, had all endorsed keeping the JCPOA alive. The AP report said Trump’s decision would be complemented by new sanctions targeting Iranian businesses and individuals, which “could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were scrapped under the 2015 nuclear agreement.”
Trump faced two separate choices. One was whether to certify or decertify the JCPOA under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which Congress passed in 2015 to give it the right to review the accord and require the president to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement every 90 days. In October, Trump declined to certify compliance, but did not tear up the deal—in decertifying the deal, he left to Congress the decision of what to do about it. Congress has been focused on other things, however. The other and more consequential choice was whether to waive or reimpose sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear activities, and it is on this decision that U.S. participation in the deal lives or dies. If AP’s report is correct, Trump has passed up this opportunity to withdraw.