Ambassador Nikki Haley: Trump ‘Has Grounds’ to Find Iran Noncompliant on Nuclear Deal

By Patrick Goodenough | September 6, 2017 | 4:38 AM EDT

President Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley hold a press conference in Bedminster, N.J. on August 11, 2017. (Screengrab: White House)

( – If President Trump decides next month not to certify Iran’s compliance with its obligations under the nuclear deal, “he has grounds to stand on,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Tuesday.

“I’m not making the case for decertifying,” she told an audience in Washington the decision. “What I am saying is, should he decide to decertify, he has grounds to stand on.”

Haley said the decision is the president’s alone, and that she does not know what he will do.

But in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Haley laid out exactly what “compliance” should look like, in the context of the U.S. law that requires the president to make a determination every 90 days.

Ninety days after he took office, Trump’s administration certified to Congress that Iran was meeting its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Three months later, it did so again, but also said the regime in Tehran was not embracing the “spirit” of the agreement.

A week later, Trump indicated in an interview that the next time certification is due – by mid-October – he does not expect to find the Iranians compliant.

The periodic certification is not a requirement of the JCPOA itself, but of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

Also known as the Corker-Cardin law, after its lead authors, the bipartisan legislation was passed by large majorities after President Obama chose not to pursue the nuclear deal as a treaty, thus sidestepping a formal Senate ratification requirement. (Haley described it as a “constitutionally-questionable dodge of Congress.”)

Haley argued that judging Iran’s nuclear intentions purely on the basis of its compliance with the “flawed” JCPOA was “dangerous and short-sighted.”

She pointed out that the Corker-Cardin law requires certification of two things – that Iran has not materially breached the JCPOA: and that “the suspension of sanctions against Iran is appropriate and proportionate to Iran’s nuclear measures, and that it is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

People usually focus on the first one – material breach – she said, but the second “requires the president to also look at whether the Iran deal is appropriate, proportionate, and in our national security interests.”

“We must consider the regime’s repeated, demonstrated hostility toward the United States,” said Haley. (In her speech, haley also listed numerous instances of aggressive actions towards the U.S., from the seizure of the embassy in 1979 through global terror attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, to the supply by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of IEDs that killed or wounded thousands of American military personnel in Iraq.)

“We must consider its history of deception about its nuclear program,” she continued. “We must consider its ongoing development of ballistic missile technology.”

Haley noted that while Obama had chosen to set aside Iran’s ballistic missile activities in the nuclear deal negotiations, it is covered by a July 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the JCPOA.

Security Council resolution 2231 called upon Iran not to carry out launches of missiles “designed to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.”

“They are clearly acting in defiance of U.N. resolution 2231 by developing missile technology capable of deploying nuclear warheads,” Haley said.

She said the judgment Trump will make next month will therefore be based not simply on whether Iran has met its specific obligations under the JCPOA.

“We must consider the whole jigsaw puzzle, not just one of its pieces.”

If Trump does not certify Iran’s compliance, Haley said, that would not mean the U.S. is withdrawing from the deal.

“What happens next is significantly in Congress’s hands,” she said, noting that under Corker-Cardin Congress will then have 60 days to consider whether or not to reimpose sanctions on Iran.

Haley said Congress could use that time to debate Iran’s past nuclear activity and other issues, including its support for terrorism and human rights violations.

“Congress could debate whether the nuclear deal is in fact too big to fail,” she said. “We should welcome a debate over whether the JCPOA is in U.S. national security interests. The previous administration set up the deal in a way that denied us that honest and serious debate.”

“It’s very easy to talk just about compliance with the JCPOA. But there’s so much more to this story that we need to be looking at,” Haley said in response to a question after the speech.

“The end result has to be the national security of the United States.”

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow