Trump Expected to Decertify Iran Nuclear Deal in Speech on Friday. But What Happens Next?

U.S. president expected to pass responsibility for the deal to Congress, who will have 60 days to debate whether to reimpose sanctions on Islamic Republic

File photo: Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, about 1,200 km (746 miles) south of Tehran, October 26, 2010.
Stringer Iran/REUTERS

WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump will make a speech on Friday in which he is expected to announce that the United States is decertifying the nuclear deal signed in 2015 between Iran and six world powers.

The speech, which was originally tentatively planned for Thursday, was still being edited as of that morning. His speech is now scheduled for 12:45 P.M. Eastern Time (7:45 PM in Israel) on Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

"It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran's government end its pursuit of death and destruction," Trump said in a White House statement that laid out key elements of the strategy. 

Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, has been briefing members of Congress about the upcoming speech. According to his briefings, Trump will say that the nuclear deal is not in line with the national security interests of the United States, and he will also accuse Iran of breaking the spirit of the nuclear deal.

Trump, however, is expected to stop short of reimposing certain sanctions on Iran that were lifted following the nuclear deal's signing in 2015. 

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The new strategy will include three key goals: Fixing the nuclear deal to make it harder for Iran to develop a weapon; addressing its ballistic missile program; and countering Iranian activities that Washington says contribute to instability in the Middle East. 

Trump is also not expected to actively call on Congress to reimpose sanctions. Instead, his speech will pass to Congress the final decision on the fate of the nuclear deal. Lawmakers in both houses will have 60 days to debate whether to reimpose sanctions – a step that would almost certainly lead to the deal's collapse.

Sources in both parties told Haaretz last week it's far from certain whether there will be enough votes in favor of doing that.

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"The United States' new Iran strategy focuses on neutralizing the government of Iran's destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants," the White House fact sheet said.

The White House statement said Trump would work to deny funding for the Iranian government, particularly its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

"We will rally the international community to condemn the IRGC's gross violations of human rights and its unjust detention of American citizens and other foreigners on specious charges," the White House said. "Most importantly, we will deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon."

One major development in the congressional battle came on Wednesday when Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House's Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that while the Iran deal is flawed, the United States should not withdraw from it at this point, but instead, "enforce the hell out of it."

Royce is considered a hawk on Iran and was very critical of the nuclear deal in 2015.

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The most senior Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Eliot Engel, also voted against the nuclear deal in 2015 – but, just like Royce,  now believes the United States should strictly enforce it and refrain from ending it.

Engel published an article in USA Today earlier this week explaining why for the time being it would be preferable to keep the Iran deal, despite all its flaws.

As the administration announced its plan for Iran, Republican senators Bob Corker and Tom Cotton said they had developed legislation intended to address what they see as deficiencies in the Iran nuclear deal.

In a proposed legislative framework, they offered a plan to automatically reimpose sanctions if Iran's nuclear program were to get to a point where Tehran could develop a nuclear weapon in less than one year (known as a "breakout" period). They said their measure, if passed by Congress, would remain in force indefinitely, lead to tougher inspections and limit Iran's centrifuge development.

It was unclear what chance the measure – expected to be offered as an amendment to the existing Iran nuclear review law – would have of winning enough support to be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The measure's backers said their intention was to set conditions to halt Iran's nuclear program and provide time "for diplomacy and pressure to work." 

Trump once again attacked the deal on Wednesday night in an interview with Fox News, in which he said the United States "got nothing" for lifting sanctions from Iran, and called it "the worst deal."