President Donald Trump decertified the Iran nuclear deal on Friday negotiated by his predecessor, instead offering a more militant strategy toward the Middle Eastern nation.
“Today I am announcing our strategy, along with several major steps we are taking, to confront the Iranian regime's hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never — and I mean never — acquires a nuclear weapon,” the president said from the Diplomatic Reception Room Friday afternoon.
In his Friday afternoon speech, the president declared that he would not certify Iran as complicit with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This decision then passes the responsibility of action to Congress, which is now faced with the decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran.
Trump's new Iran strategy “focuses on neutralizing the government of Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants,” according to a fact sheet distributed by the White House ahead of the speech.
“First, we will work with our allies to counter the regimes for destabilizing activity and support terrorist proxies in the region,” President Trump said while outlining his new strategy. “We will place sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror.”
“Third, we will address the regime's proliferation of missiles and weapons that threaten its neighbors' global trade and freedom. And finally, we will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon,” the president continued. “Today, I'm also announcing several major steps my administration has taken in pursuit of this strategy. Execution of our strategy begins with a long overdue step of imposing tough sanctions on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
The updated strategy specifically targets the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the administration suggests “underpin the international order, threatens all nations and the global economy.”
In response to the new strategy, many members of Congress have voiced their objections to the president's decision.
“If the United States Congress were to re-impose sanctions on Iran, that would lead to significant damage to the Iran Deal,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), one of the most outspoken Democrats on the issue, in a statement released earlier in the week.
“I don’t think this is the time for us to abandon the JCPOA and, while the Trump administration is making a very fine distinction between a de-certification that is a report to Congress rather than leaving the deal,” the senator from Delaware continued. “I’m concerned that that distinction will be lost on our allies and adversaries, and that it will be incorrectly reported that he’s de-certifying the JCPOA or trying to leave the JCPOA.”
Coons went on to say that while the deal was never perfect, it may have been the least bad option. He also said — and top Trump officials have agreed — that it has succeeded in restraining Iran's nuclear program.
“Going back on our word would deliver a devastating blow to our credibility, sending the message to our European allies and the rest of the world that we cannot be trusted on matters of diplomacy,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) wrote in a Time op-ed just weeks ago.
Conservative voices, however, are throwing their support behind the administration's decision.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan came out in support of the president's newly-outlined strategy shortly after the speech concluded on Friday:
JUST IN: House Speaker Ryan says he supports Trump's decision to re-evaluate Iran nuclear deal, will work with administration pic.twitter.com/eEqg2lDonG
— Reuters U.S. News (@ReutersUS) October 13, 2017
“Decertification is the necessary first step in holding Iran accountable for its aggressive foreign policy, and permanently blocking its path to a nuclear weapon,” said senior Heritage Foundation research fellow James Phillips.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) backed the president's decision Friday on Twitter, writing “I support @POTUS decision to decertify. Now Congress must either fix #IranDeal by creating triggers for sanctions or deal should end 3/3.”
During his 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to throw out the agreement entirely, calling it “the worst deal ever.” His actions Friday, though, show he may be willing to attempt a fix of the situation first before scrapping the deal outright.