Trump: Iran May be Declared Non-Compliant With Nuclear Deal Next Time

By Patrick Goodenough | July 27, 2017 | 4:30 AM EDT

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and then-E.U. foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton with other participants hold talks over Iran’s nuclear program in Geneva on November 9, 2013. (Photo: State Department)

(CNSNews.com) – President Trump is obliged by law to certify every 90 days whether Iran is complying with the nuclear deal negotiated and championed by his predecessor, but in an interview this week he said that he “personally” expects to find Iran in violation of its commitments the next time.

“If it was up to me, I would have had them non-compliant 180 days ago,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal, alluding to a time shortly after his inauguration last January.

“Do you expect them to be declared non-compliant next time?” the interviewer asked.

“Personally, I do,” Trump replied.

“We’ll talk about the subject in 90 days,” he said, “but I would be surprised if they were in compliance.”

Ninety days after his inauguration, Trump’s administration certified to Congress – as required by the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) – that Iran was complying with the deal.

On the same day, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the president had ordered an interagency review into the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to determine whether the suspension of sanctions under the deal was vital to U.S. national security interests.

Tillerson made it clear then than the certification of compliance was being given reluctantly, and called the JCPOA “another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions.”

“We buy them off for a short period of time and then someone has to deal with it later,” he said at the time.

That interagency review was still underway 90 days later – last week – when the administration again sent to Congress notification that Iran was meeting its JCPOA commitments.

But it also said the regime was not embracing the “spirit” of the agreement, and coupled the certification with the announcement of new sanctions against individuals and entities for supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The next certification is due by October 16.

“We have given them [the Iranians] the benefit of every doubt, but we’re doing very detailed studies,” Trump told the WSJ.

“And, personally, I have great respect for my people. But if it was up to me, I would have had them [declared] non-compliant 180 days ago.

On the same day as the interview, Trump during a rally in Youngstown, Ohio repeated his campaign appraisal of the JCPOA, saying that it “may be the single worst deal I’ve ever seen drawn by anybody.”

“If that deal doesn’t conform to what it’s supposed to conform to, there’s going to be big, big problems for them [the Iranians]. That I can tell you. You’re going to see that. Believe me.”

“You would have thought when that deal was made by Secretary [of State John] Kerry – maybe the worst negotiator I’ve ever seen – you would have thought that Iran would have said, ‘Thank you, United States. We can’t believe you gave us between $100 and $150 billion when they were ready to fail. We can’t believe you gave us $1.7 billion in cash.’”

“You would have thought they would have said, ‘Thank you, United States, we really love you very much,’” Trump continued. “Instead, they’ve become emboldened. That won’t take place much longer.”

In early 2016, the Obama administration handed Iran $400 million in foreign currency banknotes in what it said was settlement of a 37-year-old legal dispute with the regime – plus an additional $1.3 billion in interest, which the Treasury Department later confirmed was also provided in cash.

The larger figures cited by Trump refer to estimates of the value of Iranian assets unfrozen under the JCPOA. Figures of $100 billion or more were referred to by President Obama and Kerry themselves, although the Obama White House later accused Republican lawmakers of lying when they used similar numbers in criticizing the nuclear deal.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow