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Trump won't certify Iran nuclear deal, but he also won't unravel it


WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will make good Friday on a long-running threat to disavow the Iran nuclear deal that was negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. But he will stop short, for now, of unraveling the accord or even rewriting it, as the deal’s defenders had once feared.

In a speech Friday, Trump will declare his intention not to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. Doing so essentially kicks to Congress a decision about whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran, which would blow up the agreement.

But the Trump administration made it clear that it wants to leave the 2015 accord intact, at least for now. Instead, it is asking Congress to establish “trigger points,” which could prompt the United States to reimpose sanctions on Iran if it crosses thresholds set by Congress.

Those could include continued ballistic missile launches by Iran, a refusal to extend the duration of constraints on its nuclear fuel production, or a conclusion by the United States’ intelligence agencies that Iran could produce a nuclear weapon in less than a year.

Trump plans to outline a broad strategy that “focuses on neutralizing the government of Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants,” the White House said in a summary issued Thursday.

Iran has said that it will not take part in any renegotiation of an accord it also hammered out with three European countries, as well as with Russia and China. Persuading the Europeans – Britain, France and Germany – to reopen the negotiations could prove almost as difficult.

Given the drive by some Republicans in Congress to strike down the deal and the determination of some Democrats to preserve it, it is entirely possible that Congress will do nothing.

On Thursday, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, released a potential blueprint toward imposing an automatic snapback of sanctions if Iran was believed able of producing a nuclear weapon within a year, or if it violated other restrictions.

Iran has rejected both reopening the existing agreement and negotiating a successor agreement that would extend the restrictions on producing nuclear fuel beyond the 15 years in the original accord.

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