In a move that has caused a major rift between the US and its global allies, President Trump has refused to certify the Iran Deal.
Negotiated by his predecessor Barrack Obama and major world powers, the deal was made in 2015 to prevent Iran developing nuclear capabilities. The permanent members of the United Nations including Russia, China and Great Britain (as well as Iran) signed the agreement, and it was widely seen as a major foreign policy success of the Obama administration. The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) welcomed the agreement. According to the IAEA Iran is upholding the deal.
The deal has long been criticised however by Israel and Republicans. They believe that the deal opens the way for a nuclear weapon in the future, despite heavy restrictions on Iran’s enrichment level and capacity. There are several so-called “sunset clauses” in the deal which remove many of these restrictions after 2025. Many are also angered by Iran’s actions across the region, such as its support for the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and its subsequent involvement in the Syrian Civil War.
The US President is required by Congress to certify every 90 days that the deal is being legitimately enacted however Trump’s concerns lie with the deal itself rather than its implementation. This refusal to re-certify leaves Congress with 60 days to decide whether to withdraw entirely from the deal and re-impose sanctions.
The Trump administration is expected to heavily sanction the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), a branch of Iran’s armed force largely responsible for its overseas involvement. Sanctions are also expected to fall on Hezbollah, an Iranian affiliated militia in Lebanon.
The United States’ allies have been quick to point out that the deal is not a bilateral treaty between the US and Iran. EU head of foreign policy Federica Mogherini stated there had been “no violations” and that “it is not up to any single country to terminate” the deal. Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron released a joint statement saying that they “stand committed to the [deal] and its full implementation by all sides”. Hassan Rouhani, Iranian President, responded by calling the US “more than ever isolated” and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei angrily responded to Trump by calling him a “brute” and “foul-mouthed president”. He also threatened Iranian withdrawal from the deal should the US de-certify it and implement sanctions on Iran.
Iranian strength and influence in the Middle East is at an all-time high, with its successful and ongoing involvement in both the fight against ISIS and against Syrian rebels in Iraq and Syria. The IRGC has promised reprisals against US troops in the region if sanctions go ahead, leaving a potentially dangerous choice for American lawmakers.