Top EU Official Disputes That Trump Could Upend Iran Nuclear Deal

By Patrick Goodenough | November 11, 2016 | 4:20 AM EST

At the nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland in April 2015 – Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, then-British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and E.U. foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherin. (AP Photo/Keystone, Jean-Christophe Bott, File)

(CNSNews.com) - Asked Thursday about President-elect Donald Trump's threats to tear up the Iran nuclear deal once in office, the European Union official tasked to oversee its implementation said it was not a bilateral agreement but a multilateral one, enshrined in a U.N. Security Council resolution.

E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s words reinforced those of Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, who said on Iranian television Wednesday that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was “not concluded with one country or government but was approved by a resolution of the U.N. Security Council, and there is no possibility that it can be changed by a single government.”

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked Mogherini whether a U.S. president could unilaterally rip up the JCPOA.

“The Iranian deal, the nuclear deal, is not a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Iran,” Mogherini replied. “It’s a multilateral agreement that we have negotiated. I have a personal, direct responsibility as, still, the chair of the joint commission that supervises the implementation of the agreement, so guarantee that it is fully implemented by all sides – all sides – and this is enframed into a U.N. Security Council resolution, actually more than one.”

“So it is not a bilateral or unilateral issue. It is a multilateral agreement in the framework of the United Nations.”

Throughout the campaign that ended with Tuesday night’s victory, Trump criticized the agreement painstakingly negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 group – the U.S., Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – and touted by the Obama administration as a major foreign policy achievement.

Trump called it the worst deal he had seen and said dismantling it would be a “number on priority.”

On other occasions he suggested he would renegotiate it, or “police” it so determinedly that the Iranians would not “have a chance.”

One of Trump’s foreign policy advisors, Walid Phares, told British public radio Thursday that Trump would review the JCPOA and demand changes from the Iranians.

The administration maintains that the agreement cuts off all routes to a nuclear weapons capability, by placing wide-ranging restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, with strict monitoring and the ability to “snap back” sanctions in case of violations.

Critics, including some leading some non-proliferation experts, say it leaves an unacceptably large proportion of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact, laying the groundwork for Iran to become a nuclear threshold state once sunset provisions expire, after 10-15 years. Moreover, they charge that the deal has both emboldened and enriched Iran.

Heritage Foundation senior research fellow James Phillips wrote Thursday that Rouhani’s claim of there being “no possibility” of the deal being overturned was “an outright lie.”

“President Barack Obama purposely structured the deal as an executive agreement to make an end-run around Congress, which he knew would oppose the flawed and risky deal,” Phillips argued. “After his inauguration, Trump would have the authority to revoke the executive agreement.”

A year ago, the State Department confirmed in a letter to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) that the JCPOA was not a “legally binding” treaty nor even a signed document, but rather reflects “political commitments” between Iran, the P5+1 and the E.U.

Opponents of the JCPOA in the U.S. Senate failed last year to garner the 60 votes needed to advance a resolution disapproving the deal.

But opposition in Congress remains strong; not only did every Republican in the Senate oppose the agreement last year, but incoming Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was one of four Democratic senators to reject it as well.

Several pieces of legislation providing for new sanctions are already on the table, and with a Republican skeptical of the JCPOA in the White House, the threat of a veto will no longer hover over such initiatives.

One such bill, sponsored by Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), passed in the House of Representatives last July in a 246-179 vote and was referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Although this legislation and others take aim at non-nuclear activities including terror-sponsorship and ballistic missile activity, the Obama administration worried that any new Iran sanctions legislation could jeopardize the JCPOA.

One thing is certain: Trump’s secretary of state will not likely have the kind of close relationship with Iran’s foreign minister that Secretary of State John Kerry developed over long months of negotiations in Austria and Switzerland.

Republican critics accused Kerry of “bending over backwards” to keep Iran happy, citing among other things his proactive efforts to persuade European banks and businesses that Iran was “open for business.’

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow