President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the Iran nuclear deal was one of the “worst” plans he’d ever seen, once again signaling his dissatisfaction with the agreement and hinting that the White House may decertify it later this week.
“I think it was one of the most incompetently drawn deals I’ve ever seen,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity during an interview on Wednesday. “$150 billion given ― we got nothing. They get a path to nuclear weapons very quickly and think of this one ― $1.7 billion in cash ― this is cash out of your pocket.”
Trump’s claim that $150 billion was given to Iran is misleading ― when the deal was reached, billions of Iranian assets frozen by economic sanctions were released back to the country. (That value is a high estimate, according to Politifact. The actual value appears to be far lower.) The $1.7 billion in cash was paid by the U.S. government last year to settle a decades-old arbitration suit between America and Iran.
The White House is required to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is complying with the terms of the nuclear plan, which severely limits the country’s ability to enrich uranium that could be used for nuclear weapons. In exchange, the United Nations Security Council and Germany agreed to lift economic penalties on Iran that had hurt the Iranian economy.
But NBC, citing three unnamed officials briefed on the president’s impending decision, reported that Trump is expected to decertify the agreement.
Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t believe Iran is “living up to the spirit of the agreement.” The officials reached by NBC told the outlet that the Trump administration wants to renegotiate parts of the deal. Now it lasts only 10 years, and Trump wants it to be longer. The White House also wants nuclear inspections by the U.N. to be more stringent and include military sites.
Trump is expected to announce his decision Friday, according to administration officials reached by ABC.
If Trump does decertify the deal, Congress would have 60 days to determine if it will reimpose sanctions on Iran.
Decertifying the Iran nuclear deal ― a hallmark achievement of the Obama administration in 2015 ― would undermine an international agreement reached by all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. The other members want the deal to stand and have begun lobbying Congress in an attempt to salvage it should Trump move to decertify.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reiterated his government’s commitment to the deal to the Iranian foreign minister on Wednesday, and British Prime Minister Theresa May has urged Trump to keep it in place.
The move is even unpopular among Trump’s Cabinet. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this month that the U.S. should consider staying in it unless there was evidence to prove Iran was flouting the deal’s provisions.
“If we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then clearly we should stay with it,” Mattis told a Senate hearing in early October, Reuters reported. “I believe ... absent indications to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with.”
The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, has said Iran is abiding by the limits set in the deal. Calls by the Trump administration to check Iranian military sites have also been discounted by the IAEA, who have said such requests are based on politics, not reliable intelligence.
“If they want to bring down the deal, they will,” an IAEA official told Reuters in August. “We just don’t want to give them an excuse to.”