WASHINGTON — Amid reports that President Donald Trump will soon decertify the Joint Coalition Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were sent into a tailspin of what the next course of action would be.
Last Thursday, Trump said in a meeting with his top military leaders that the Iran has “not lived up to the spirit of their agreement.”
“The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed, and chaos across the Middle East,” Trump said. “That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions.”
The looming threat of Trump scrapping the US’s involvement in the deal prompted action on Capitol Hill from worried Democrats.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz briefed Democrats on the nonproliferation agreement on Wednesday, joined by French Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud and European Union Ambassador to the US David O’Sullivan.
New York Rep. Eliot Engel, who serves as the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Business Insider there was broad consensus among the former Obama administration officials and the foreign ambassadors in the room.
“They were all saying the same thing, that they think the United States should stay in the deal,” Engel said. “The president shouldn’t certify for a number of reasons and that was certainly the consensus in the room.”
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said he thinks they “got a good description of the likely consequences of any vote in Congress to kill the deal and all the reasons why that would be a real and far-reaching mistake.”
Schiff added that the tone and concerns from the ambassadors was “certainly very negative on the consequences of reneging on our commitment to the deal.”
“They’re all committed to it and they’ll remain committed,” Schiff said of O’Sullivan and Araud. “It would certainly mean a loss of our standing in the world if one administration won’t honor an agreement by the last. But hopefully it won’t come to that.”
The ambassadors’ fears echoed those of other current world leaders, such as German Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel, who said “we do not want to see this agreement damaged,” invoking the risks it would post in regard to future negotiations with other actors.
“Our big concern is with, regard to North Korea, that it is very unlikely the North Korean dictatorship is ready to agree to an international agreement to renounce the building of nuclear weapons if the only agreement in the world that has allowed such a renunciation is at the same time called into question.”
Congress passed the Iran Sanctions Extensions Act at the end of last year, which then-President Obama begrudgingly allowed to become law, affecting Iran’s energy sector for an additional 10 years.
“This Administration has made clear that an extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, while unnecessary, is entirely consistent with our commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” the Obama White House said in a statement at the time. “Consistent with this longstanding position, the extension of the Iran Sanctions Act is becoming law without the President’s signature.”