Trump should not certify Iran’s nuclear compliance and here’s how he can do it

President Trump just extended sanctions relief on Iran, but this does not mean he will certify that Iran is complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) next month. He won’t, because doing so would mean lying to Congress.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), also known as Corker-Cardin, requires the president to certify that Iran is in compliance with JCPOA every 90 days. Trump has done that twice since he took office, but it was against his better instincts. He was very unhappy with his leadership for not giving him proper ammunition to do the right thing.

But that won’t happen this time. There is plenty of proof that Iran is not complying, and the president has told his Cabinet leaders in no uncertain terms to bring him reasons for not certifying. The problem he has run into in the past has been the intelligence community’s assessment that Iran is technically in compliance, that they have no certain evidence of a material breach of the JCPOA.

But Iran is in violation of a related agreement, UN Security Council Resolution 2231, through ballistic missile testing and export of weapons to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. These violations are so flagrant even Samantha Power, Obama’s UN Ambassador, felt obligated to point them out.

But the reason they can claim no certain evidence of violations is that the Obama administration gave away any right to conduct meaningful inspections in Iran. No one can get anywhere near the military sites where Iran does its dirty work. Also, in their naïve zeal to make a deal at any cost, President Obama’s negotiators took ballistic missile programs out of the agreement. A nuclear weapon needs a delivery system to be fully functional. Removing the missile program from the deal allowed Iran to keep working on half of its program and remain in technical compliance with the JCPOA.

But Iran is in violation of a related agreement, UN Security Council Resolution 2231, through ballistic missile testing and export of weapons to Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. These violations are so flagrant even Samantha Power, Obama’s UN Ambassador, felt obligated to point them out. That is the opening Trump can use to announce that he can’t certify compliance with the deal. The INARA contains a provision (Page 129 STAT. 207) that says the president must certify that “Iran is transparently, verifiably, and fully implementing the agreement, including all related technical or additional agreements.”

A UN Security Council resolution, directly applicable to the Iran nuclear program and negotiated by the Obama administration in conjunction with the JCPOA, absolutely counts as a related or additional agreement. The comical thing is that Obama loyalists are claiming it does not. When they submitted the JCPOA and all related agreements to Congress, as required by INARA, which President Obama signed, they included UNSCR 2231 as: (Other) not a related agreement.

Seriously, that’s their excuse for why it should not be considered. That’s like saying the money they sent to Iran on an unmarked plane in the middle of the night wasn’t bribes and ransom because the pallets of cash were stenciled “humanitarian aid.” Well, maybe that’s not the best example, since they actually did claim that.

Trump has every right, even an obligation, to identify UNSCR 2231 as a related agreement, and to tell Congress that he cannot certify compliance because Iran’s missile tests and weapons movements via commercial airlines are serial violations. This would set in motion numerous options for reapplying sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program. It should also prompt all elements of the U.S. government to fix, renegotiate or, ideally, eliminate the deal, and to take action to actually stop Iran’s nuclear program.

The Iran deal was one of the worst negotiations in U.S. history. We gave away everything and gained almost nothing. Iran has moved forward with malign activity in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and, worst of all, its burgeoning nuclear and ballistic missile partnership with North Korea. By taking the first steps toward replacing this deal with actions that will keep us all safe, President Trump will be doing his sworn duty.

All elements of U.S. power should be brought to bear, including a credible threat of military action if Iran doesn’t allow inspections at its military sites. We should also let the Iranian people know that we do not hold them responsible for the actions of the mullahs who oppress them and endanger the world. A new government for Iran would be in everyone’s interest.

That or military action is the only thing that will stop Iran from finishing its plans to become a nuclear power. Expect President Trump to move us forward in that regard.

Jim Hanson is President of Security Studies Group and served in US Army Special Forces.