On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, and Iran reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. In exchange for sanctions relief, the JCPOA forced Iran to accept restrictions on its illegal nuclear program and a new corresponding inspections regime.
Taken together, the terms of the deal have increased Iran’s breakout time using uranium – the amount of time it would take to create enough uranium to build a bomb – from two or three months to twelve months or more. It eliminates Iran’s ability to produce weapons-usable plutonium for at least 15 years. And, it ensures scrutiny to block Iran from engaging in any such activities covertly. Failure to comply with any of the deal's requirements would lead to punitive steps, including but not necessarily limited to the resumption of sanctions. The deal has received strong support from key European allies and more than eighty of the world's leading nuclear nonproliferation experts. Senior members of the president’s own national security team have testified in favor of continued American participation in the deal.
In May 2015, Congress asserted its own authority over the agreement with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, requiring the president to certify certain aspects of the deal to Congress every 90 days.
In January 2018, President Trump agreed to extend the Iran deal, but warned that he would not do so on May 12, when the economic sanctions are next up for renewal, unless Congress and European allies fixed "four critical components." Experts like Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, explained, however, that Trump's demands were unrealistic and merely an excuse for the U.S. to violate the agreement. Predictably, on May 8th, President Trump did just that, turning his back on the agreement and its other signatories. The termination comes on the heels of the administration’s appointment of National Security Advisor John Bolton, a critic of the agreement and an advocate for beginning a war with Iran.
Withdrawing from the agreement has isolated the United States from its global allies, who have scrambled to try to save the deal, and may set the country on track for a new war in the Middle East. While the deal currently hangs by a thread, Iran has promised to continue its uranium enrichment if the deal disintegrates completely, a move that could take us further down the road to war. Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) introduced an amendment, which passed with bipartisan support, to the House's version of the National Defense Authorization Act to clarify that the President does not have congressional authorization to attack Iran.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Now that the Trump administration has moved the country one step closer to war with Iran, it is imperative that Congress prevent the White House from taking unilateral military action. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has proposed an amendment to the Senate version of the NDAA that echos the sentiment in Rep. Ellison's amendment to the House version. We need to make clear to the President that he does not have the authorization to start a war with Iran. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 to ask them to support this amendment.
Here are some things you can say:
- We don't need another war in the Middle East, and it's unfair to our brave men and women in uniform to ask them to fight because of reckless, erratic decisions by President Trump and John Bolton.
- The US violation of the deal has created tension between Iran and the US, which the administration may try to use as an excuse for war. Congress needs to exercise its constitutional role as a check on the executive branch and prevent President Trump from taking the country down this path.
- Basics of the Deal – Diplomacy Works
- Iran Deal 101, video series – J Street
- I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again. – By Lawrence Wilkerson, The New York Times, February 2018
- Trump’s Cynical Gambit on the Iran Nuclear Deal – By Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association, January 2018
- Iran Deal: Hanging By A Thread – Ploughshares Fund, January 2018
- Lead Negotiator In Iran Deal: Trump Is 'Misreading Situation' – By Wendy Sherman, TIME, January 2018