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Fecteau: Dear Mr. Trump, Decertify This

Sunday, October 15, 2017


President Donald Trump decertified the Iran nuclear deal because it is purportedly not within our country’s national security interest. This is alarming since by most accounts, Iran was abiding by the conditions. Mr. Trump just sent a message to the world the United States may not fulfill its commitments on critical foreign policy issues; nevertheless, decertify doesn’t mean revoke, and Congress could be the deal’s saving grace.

Just because Mr. Trump decertified the deal that doesn’t mean stringent U.S. sanctions will be imposed on Iran again – the legislative branch has a say too. Congress will have to decide whether comprehensive sanctions should be imposed on Iran within a 60-day window. If Congress doesn’t act and it may not, the Iran nuclear deal would remain in place until it is up for recertification in 90 days (unless Congress decides to repeal this explicit requirement).

However, even if U.S. sanctions are placed on Iran, will it matter? Not as much as you may think for Iran. The specific sanctions placed on Iran related to its nuclear program packed a punch because they were global in scope. Iran might face some pain if the deal is revoked, but not as much for it doesn’t have the international bite.

Take the U.S. sanction related to terrorism placed on Iran since 1984 as an example. These sanctions did little to deter Iran from terrorist activity and human rights abuses merely because it was almost solely a U.S. driven initiative (comparable to the U.S. embargo on Cuba). That’s right, for all this ‘America First’ nonsense, international support is critical (despite what Mr. Trump says).  Diplomacy is slow, but it pays far more dividends than a ‘go it alone’ strategy -- if only Mr. Trump knew.

Ironically, the United States could be the biggest loser from a newly sanctioned Iran. The United States risks being labeled an international outcast, isolated on the international stage even from its closest allies that are still honoring the deal. In addition, the hardline elements in Iran would have all the propaganda they need to brainwash the next generation of Iranians into believing the United States is the ‘Great Satan.’ The worst outcome yet though, Iran might just resurrect their weaponized nuclear program, putting it on a path toward becoming a full-blown nuclear state.

There is hope that Congress can save this deal by modifying its terms or simply do nothing (what it is good at). Congress should remind Mr. Trump, he is a president, not a king, and there is this thing called ‘checks and balances.’ Decertifying the Iran deal made no sense, but this is what happens when you allegedly put ‘America First’ and common sense last; all thanks to a megalomaniacal reality television star whom we call Mr. President.

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) is a Master of Public Administration candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and an Iraq War veteran. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewFecteau


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