President Trump might pull the United States out of Iran nuclear deal over the rogue regime's support for terrorism, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress.
Tillerson certified that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama's team in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that was released late Tuesday night. But he hastened to add that Iran's role as "a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods" has the Trump team debating whether to stick with the agreement.
"President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States," Tillerson wrote, using the formal name for the nuclear deal.
Congress imposed economic sanctions on Iran, but Obama lifted them unilaterally by invoking a provision of the sanctions law that allowed the president to issue a waiver when doing so is in the national security interest of the country. Obama waived those economic sanctions in exchange for Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal, so Trump's prospective revocation of that waiver would amount to the United States breaking its end the agreement.
There's bipartisan support for imposing new sanctions on Iran, but simply re-imposing the sanctions lifted as part of the deal would face stiffer opposition. That's because Iran has already received some of the economic benefits that the deal provides in exchange for complying with the deal for 15 years.
"I hope that the new administration will slap sanctions on them and they'll certainly have my support if they decide to do it," New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in February. But, he added, "if we were to simply walk out of the deal now, they'd have all this money without really doing anything and I don't think we should let them off the hook."
Some House Republicans are leading a separate push to deter Iran from receiving the benefits of the agreement, which might affect Trump's calculus. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and other lawmakers have warned Western companies that investing in Iran makes them complicit with a terrorist regime. And they have asked Trump already to cancel licenses that allow Boeing to sell airplanes to Iran.
"Iran's commercial airlines have American blood on their hands," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Roskam wrote in an April 10 letter to Trump.