(CNSNews.com) – Seven in ten American voters believe the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration should be renegotiated, and an even larger majority, 81 percent, think any new deal should require Senate ratification, a new poll has found.
The Harvard-Harris survey for The Hill found 70 percent support for renegotiating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including 85 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats polled.
The strong opinions about the need for Senate approval are especially striking. The Obama administration chose to treat the JCPOA as a political agreement between governments rather than a treaty. Under the Constitution a treaty requires the support of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate before it can enter into force.
Then-Secretary of State John Kerry, a key JCPOA negotiator and among its most vocal defenders, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July 2015 that the administration had not taken the treaty route with the nuclear deal because “you can’t pass a treaty anymore.”
Commenting on the poll results, Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn said, “Americans see Iran as a bad actor on all fronts and substantial majorities believe this agreement is being violated and never should have gone into effect without a Senate vote.”
In the absence of a Senate ratification requirement, Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), which requires the president every 90 days to certify that Iran is meeting its commitments under the deal, and that the suspension of U.S. sanctions continues to be in U.S. national security interests.
On October 13, President Trump for the first time decertified Iran’s compliance, a step that does not do away with the agreement but does pave the way for congressional action, including possible reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions within 60 days.
The poll – a collaboration between The Harris Poll and the Harvard Center for American Political Studies – suggests American voters are divided over Trump’s decertification decision, with just 51 percent of respondents agreeing with the move.
Still, 60 percent of the voters surveyed said the nuclear agreement was a bad one for the U.S., and two-thirds – including half of the Democrats polled – said Iran has not complied with its obligations under the deal.
“Voters want it renegotiated but are split on whether Trump’s decertification was right, underscoring the need for Trump to keep explaining his policy and actions to an electorate that supports his aims,” said Penn.
In response to Trump’s decertification decision, Congress has several options it can pursue.
Reimposing nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted under the JCPOA would be the most contentious choice, since it would constitute a U.S. violation of the deal and could cause it to unravel. Iran has, however, indicated that it could in such circumstances stay in the agreement without the U.S., but with the other negotiating partners – Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.
Congress could alternatively amend the INARA, building in new demands for a renegotiated, stronger version of the JCPOA.
The administration could then use the legislation to push Iran and the other negotiating partners in a bid towards achieving the “better” deal that Trump has called for. The president warned in his Oct. 13 announcement that “in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.”
Finally, Congress could do nothing, thereby lobbing the ball back into Trump’s court to deal with the next time the 90-day certification requirement comes round, in mid-January.