President Donald Trump allowed the Iran nuclear deal to survive through 2017, but the new year will offer him another chance to blow up the agreement — and critics and supporters alike believe he may take it.
By mid-January, the president will face new legal deadlines to choose whether to slap U.S. sanctions back on Tehran. Senior lawmakers and some of Trump’s top national security officials are trying to preserve the agreement. But the deal’s backers fear Trump has grown more willing to reject the counsel of his foreign policy team, as he did with his recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The decision represents an opportunity for Trump to deliver on a campaign promise to rip up the Iran deal, one he has repeatedly deferred at the urging of senior officials.
When Trump last publicly addressed the status of the Iran agreement, in mid-October, he indicated his patience had worn thin with what he has called “the worst deal ever,” and demanded that Congress and European countries take action to address what he considers the deal’s weakness.
“[I]n the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said in an Oct. 13 speech.
The three months since then have shown little progress toward such a solution.
In an effort to save the deal, members of Congress are discussing legislation that would give Trump political cover to extend the deal. But it’s not clear whether Republicans and Democrats can agree on even a symbolic measure in time.
“It’s entirely possible that Trump tells Congress and the Europeans, ‘I gave you 90 days to get your act together and you didn’t — and I’m done,’” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish Washington think tank with close ties to the Trump White House.