Trump Won’t Certify Iran Nuclear Deal, but He Also Won’t Unravel It
The nuclear deal is the latest international agreement that Mr. Trump has tried to exit, amend or water down — including the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The closest analogy to this deal may be Nafta, the trade agreement that Mr. Trump once threatened to rip up and is now undergoing a painstaking renegotiation.
In this case, however, Iran has said that it will not take part in any renegotiation of an accord it also hammered out with three European countries, as well as with Russia and China. Persuading the Europeans — Britain, France and Germany — to reopen the negotiations could prove almost as difficult.
Even getting Congress, which is deeply divided on the Iran deal, to agree on additional legislation may be beyond Mr. Trump’s political skills. Given the drive by some Republicans to strike down the deal and the determination of some Democrats to preserve it, it is entirely possible that Congress will do nothing.
On Thursday evening, Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, released a potential blueprint toward imposing an automatic snapback of sanctions if Iran was believed able of producing a nuclear weapon within a year, or if it violated other restrictions. Mr. Corker worked on the proposal with administration officials and Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who is a hard-liner on Iran policy, and predicted it could earn bipartisan support.
Mr. Trump’s decision came after a fierce debate inside the administration, according to a senior official familiar with the discussions and who agreed to describe them on condition of anonymity.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued that it was in the national security interests of the United States to keep the deal’s constraints on Iran. The two men succeeded, over time, in persuading Mr. Trump not to immediately scrap an accord that he had said during last year’s presidential campaign was a “disaster” and the “worst deal ever.”
The president also faced a growing chorus of outside voices urging him not to withdraw from the deal, including Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister and defense minister known for his hawkish views on Iran, and Condoleezza Rice, who as President George W. Bush’s secretary of state tried unsuccessfully to open a dialogue with Iran.