Fleitz points out that per the Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015, the Trump administration is required to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) and that this agreement is in the national-security interests of the United States. The next certification is due on July 17, 2017.
It is crucial, says Fleitz, that the Trump administration, in the next JCPOA certification statement, correct the gross error it made in April, when it certified that Iran was complying with this agreement and that the JCPOA is in the national-security interests of our country.
The April certification, concluded Fleitz, went against Mr. Trump’s accurate statements during the presidential campaign that the JCPOA was one of the worst agreements ever negotiated and that there was clear evidence of Iran’s failing to meet its obligations under the agreement as well as cheating. Although many Trump officials opposed the April certification — and this decision to certify appeared to irritate President Trump — State Department careerists succeeded in convincing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to agree to certify anyway.
Senators Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Ted Cruz (R., Texas), David Perdue (R., Ga.), and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) made it clear in a July 11 letter to Secretary Tillerson that they do not want this to happen again and cited four ways Iran is not complying with the nuclear agreement:
One. Operating more advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges than is permitted and announcing the capability to initiate mass production of centrifuges. (Although some agree with this concern, the U.S. should not have agreed to let Iran enrich any uranium while the JCPOA is in effect, never mind enrich it with advanced centrifuges. This is one of the JCPOA’s most serious flaws.)
Two. Exceeding limits on production and storage of heavy water, a substance needed to operate plutonium-producing heavy-water nuclear reactors. (Again, some agree, but the U.S. should not have agreed to a pact that allows Iran to produce heavy water or operate a heavy-water reactor.)
Three. Covertly procuring nuclear and missile technology outside of JCPOA-approved channels. There’s direct evidence of this, from German intelligence reports.
Four. Refusing to allow IAEA inspectors access to nuclear-research and military facilities.
Incredibly, says Fleitz, a State Department official said at a recent Washington lunch that the Department is trying to determine whether Iran is in “material breach” of the JCPOA, not whether it is in full compliance.
This means that the State Department is well aware that Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal, but is trying to find ways to discount these violations.
This kind of diplomatic hairsplitting seems to violate the Iran Nuclear Review Act, which mandated that the administration certify whether Iran is or is not in compliance with the JCPOA.
What’s more, Fred Fleitz, and Senators Cotton, Cruz, Perdue, and Rubio are not the only high-level observers of the Iran nuclear deal to see it this way.
John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a former undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs has posted an op-ed in The Hill arguing that certifying that Iran is complying with its 2015 nuclear deal “will be the administration’s second unforced error regarding the JCPOA.”
Over the past two years, argues Ambassador Bolton, considerable information detailing Tehran’s violations of the deal have become public, including: exceeding limits on uranium enrichment and production of heavy water; illicit efforts at international procurement of dual-use nuclear and missile technology; and obstructing international inspection efforts (which were insufficient to begin with).
Certification is an unforced error says Bolton because the applicable statute (the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, or “INARA”) requires neither certifying Iranian compliance nor certifying Iranian noncompliance.
As Ambassador Bolton and our friend Paula DeSutter previously explained, the INARA requires merely that the Secretary of State (to whom President Obama delegated the task) “determine…whether [he] is able to certify” compliance (emphasis added).
The secretary can satisfy the statute simply by “determining” that he is not prepared for now to certify compliance and that U.S. policy is under review.
The problem, says Ambassador Bolton, is within the Trump administration, JCPOA supporters contend that rejecting the deal would harm the United States by calling into question our commitment to international agreements generally. There is ominous talk of America “not living up to its word.”
This is nonsense argues Bolton. The president’s primary obligation is to keep American citizens safe from foreign threats.
To that end, Bolton says we must also urgently reassess the available intelligence on issues like joint Iranian-North Korea nuclear and ballistic-missile programs, free from the Obama administration’s political biases. Cooperation between Tehran and Pyongyang is deep and long-standing. North Korea’s July 4 ICBM launch should cause greater interest in the implications for Iran.
Much of the current JCPOA debate would be strategically irrelevant if, as seems virtually certain, the ayatollahs can send a wire transfer to Kim Jung-un to purchase whatever capability North Korea develops.
It is time for the Trump administration to stop “reviewing’ and stop issuing phony certifications it knows are lies. The Trump administration itself has already shown the courage of its convictions by withdrawing from the Paris climate accords. Compared to that, abrogating the JCPOA is a one-inch putt says Ambassador Bolton – and we agree.
As Fred Fleitz and Ambassador Bolton have pointed out many times, the Obama Iran nuclear deal is fatally flawed. We urge CHQ readers to use this link to contact the White House. Tell President Trump it is folly to falsely certify that Iran is in compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA and that it is time to fulfill his campaign promise to take America out of Obama’s dangerous Iran nuclear deal.