Trump was right to put the Iran nuclear deal on death row

President Trump was right to sharply criticize the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran Friday and say that Congress and other nations must set stricter conditions for Iranian behavior in order to keep the U.S. from withdrawing from the pact.

"However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” President Trump said. “It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time. As we have seen in North Korea, the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes."

I would have preferred President Trump to announce a clean withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, but I support his decision to give Congress and European leaders a final chance to fix it – even though the chances of this happening are extremely remote.

I applaud the president for calling out Iran for its sponsorship of terrorism, missile program and efforts to destabilize the Middle East. He explained clearly and accurately why the agreement designed to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons is in reality weak and dangerous.

I would have preferred President Trump to announce a clean withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, but I support his decision to give Congress and European leaders a final chance to fix it – even though the chances of this happening are extremely remote.

The president’s compelling description of the growing threat from Iran explained why the Israeli and Saudi governments immediately endorsed his action.

President Trump’s ultimatum was the most important part of his speech, since he announced that he will kill the agreement unless its many flaws are fixed. Given the low probability that Congress, U.S. diplomats or European officials can devise and implement any substantial changes to the nuclear agreement, the deal’s future is grim.

Congress now has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose severe economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the nuclear agreement. Congress also will consider legislation on how to address the agreement’s shortcomings and “triggers” imposing sanctions in response to Iranian behavior.

Any legislation or renegotiation of the nuclear agreement must address its three major flaws: allowing Iran to enrich uranium; allowing Iran to operate a plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor; and the deal’s very weak inspection provisions.

Other issues also should be addressed, such as Iran’s missile program, support of terrorism and meddling in regional conflicts.

While there’s been some talk of extending the deal’s “sunset” clause – when the agreement expires – such a fix would be meaningless without the above changes concerning Iran’s nuclear program.

However, none of these vital changes is likely to approved by Congress in legislation or agreed to by other nations who signed the Iran deal.

Congress is very unlikely to pass legislation with any substantial fixes to the agreement because too many moderate Republican senators will vote with Democrats against changes that could cause Iran to withdraw. The Senate would require 60 votes to pass such legislation, meaning that even if all 52 Republicans supported it they would need to pick up eight Democratic votes.

Based on a statement by a senior European Union official Friday, European states plan to stubbornly resist any efforts by U.S. officials to fix the nuclear deal.

By not withdrawing from the pact immediately, President Trump is trying to work with Congress and follow the law. This is the opposite of how President Obama imposed the nuclear agreement on the American people by refusing to follow the U.S. Constitution and submitting the pact to the Senate for ratification as a treaty. To say that such a far-reaching international agreement is not a treaty was an absurd claim by the former president.

It’s also worth noting that President Trump can reimpose most sanctions on Iran himself if Congress fails to act. The president could take such action and impose additional sanctions as part of a withdrawal decision.

You’ll see many pundits and members of Congress on the talk show circuit this weekend discussing various schemes to fix the nuclear deal. Ignore their hot air. The nuclear deal with Iran is all but dead. In about two months, President Trump hopefully will put the Iran deal out of its misery.

Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs with the Center for Security Policy, a national security think tank. Follow him on Twitter@FredFleitz.