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GUEST COLUMN: Not re-certifying Iran Deal is was wrong decision

By: Joel Davidow
October 23, 2017 Updated: October 23, 2017 at 4:06 am
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By not certifying Iranian compliance with the Iran deal (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), President Donald Trump has imperiled our national security and diminished U.S. leadership on the world stage. Congress now has the option under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 to reinstate the sanctions that were suspended when the Iran deal went into effect.

However, the Iran Deal is implemented under U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which gives authority to verify compliance to the International Atomic Energy Agency. So far, the International Atomic Energy Agency has made 9 compliance-related reports. Those reports show Iran exceeded their 130 metric ton limit on heavy water in mid-February 2016 by 0.7 percent and again in early November by 0.08 percent. But those reports also verified that Iran corrected the issue each time and show Iran has been in compliance in all other respects.

Despite these reports, Trump refused to certify compliance - which undermines U.S. credibility. He also threatened to unilaterally terminate the deal as a last resort - which demonstrates a lack of understanding about the security, diplomatic, and legal landscape. The legal status of the Iran deal can only be changed through action of the U.N. Security Council. Resolution 2231 includes a procedure for reinstating the sanctions suspended under the Iran deal if Iran violates the deal in a significant way. Any member state reinstating those sanctions on their own would violate that country's legal obligations under international law.

There are shortcomings in the Iran deal, and Iran has taken destabilizing actions in areas outside the Iran deal. Those should be addressed by building on the progress made by the Iran deal with new sanctions and new diplomatic negotiations while fully enforcing the checks on Iran put in place by the Iran deal. The goals Trump listed as his strategy could have been achieved more effectively with continued U.S. certification of compliance.

U.S. credibility and a president who understands the security, diplomatic, and legal landscape are required for those new negotiations to succeed and also to untangle many of the national security threats facing us.

We need China and Russia (two of the nations that helped negotiate the Iran deal) to step up even more than they have to deal with the nuclear problem in North Korea. Trump's action has almost certainly added fuel to Kim Jung-un's fire and reduced the willingness of both China and Russia to work with us. These increase the danger facing South Korea and Japan - two of our strongest allies in the region.

Our relationship with Russia is coming apart but we have major issues to settle with them including preventing escalation between their forces and ours ("deconfliction") in the conflict in Syria, finding a political solution to the crisis in Syria, and ending Russia's occupation of Crimea in Ukraine.

In Iraq, the Kurdish Peshmerga have been critical in military successes against IS. About two weeks ago, the Iraqi Kurds held a referendum voting for independence, which is driving our ally and NATO member Turkey closer to Iran and complicating the situation with Iraq. Turkey has also been sliding toward authoritarianism since a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

If we take the next step of reinstating sanctions on our own, our credibility will be eroded further and negotiating solutions to these and other threats will be made much more difficult. In addition, we will be in violation of a U.N. Security Council Resolution that we were instrumental in getting adopted. We will undermine the international effort to promote peace and security through the institution of the U.N. that we were instrumental in creating in response to the unspeakable horrors of two world wars. We will corrode the trust and respect that our allies have in us. And we will strengthen the rhetoric of our detractors around the world who claim that we cannot be trusted.

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Joel Davidow is a systems engineer with First Data and a Security Fellow with Truman National Security Project. Views expressed are his own.

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