Susan Glasser reports that Trump intends not to certify the nuclear deal when the next deadline comes up in two weeks:
“Tillerson is still trying to convince Trump,” said a key outside adviser to the White House. Another source briefed on the deliberations in the Pentagon and State Department said Tillerson had support there but not in the White House—and even those who disagree with decertification “are now adjusting to the reality it is going to happen.” [bold mine-DL] They are “negotiating over the wording” Trump will use, this source said, and the framing of the decision, which is likely to be accompanied by the rollout of what the White House is billing as a “major new strategy” to combat malign Iranian influence across the Middle East.
Refusing to certify the deal would be consistent with Trump’s statements in recent months. He grudgingly recertified the deal three months ago, but made it plain that he hadn’t wanted to do that and wouldn’t do it again. His U.N. speech all but promised that he wouldn’t. It has been obvious for a long time that he is determined to start the process of reneging on the deal. Trump’s hostility to the deal has always been uninformed, as we have seen on many occasions, and he seems as convinced as ever that it is a bad, “lopsided” one because he has never bothered to understand what it does. I doubt that will change in the next two weeks when it hasn’t changed in the last two years. For his part, Tillerson may be resisting decertification, but he has echoed so many absurd hawkish complaints about the deal publicly that he can’t have been making a very good case for the deal in private.
Glasser’s interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif contained a curious remark. Zarif seems to think that Congress won’t act to impose sanctions if Trump refuses to certify the deal:
“It’s up to Congress to adopt any decision, or not to adopt any decision, and I believe in the past a Republican Congress had this idea to let the nuclear agreement stay, as did our parliament,” Zarif said. “It had decided in the past not to take action; it can decide again.”
There may be individual Republicans in Congress inclined to keep the deal in place, but there are many more vocal opponents of the deal that have been desperately trying to sabotage it from the start. Unless these hard-liners suddenly and unexpectedly change their tune on the deal, they will be eager to propose new sanctions that would violate U.S. commitments, and I assume most Republicans in both chambers will go along that. I don’t believe for a second that Trump would use his veto to keep the U.S. in compliance with the deal when he so clearly wants to blow it up. Defenders of the deal need to rally against whatever new sanctions legislation follows Trump’s decision not to certify, and they should begin organizing now.