Eli Lake reports that President Trump came very close to killing the Iran deal this week, or at least starting down that road. On Monday when the Secretary of State was set to announce Iran’s ongoing compliance with the deal, Trump stopped the announcement to consider his options. From Bloomberg:
Just as Tillerson was preparing to inform Congress on Monday that Iran remained in compliance with what is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Trump called it off, according to administration officials. He wanted to know his options and what would happen if Tillerson didn’t make the announcement.
And for a few hours on Monday afternoon, it looked like the White House was going to tell Congress it could not certify Iran was complying, without saying Iran was in breach of the pact. This would have triggered a 60-day period in which Congress could vote to re-impose the secondary sanctions lifted as a condition of the deal, or to strike it down altogether…
Eventually, Trump walked back from the ledge, and the administration certified Tehran’s compliance.
So what changed Trump’s mind? Apparently, it was the fact that no one in Congress was ready for this move or even has a clear grasp on what Trump’s Iran policy is at this point.
Lake doesn’t say this but it also seems reasonable to conclude Congress isn’t looking for another dramatic controversy to take up in the midst of its inability to repeal and replace Obamacare. Even once this moment passes, the next item on the agenda is supposed to be tax reform. Tossing the Iran deal into the mix with a 60-day deadline would necessarily delay moving on to taxes.
Meanwhile, tensions with Iran continue to rise. Monday Iran sentenced an American researcher to ten years in prison for allegedly spying. From CNN:
An American researcher has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being convicted of spying, according to Iran.
Princeton University identified the man as Chinese-born Xiyue Wang, an American citizen and graduate student in history. Wang was arrested in Iran last summer while doing scholarly research in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation, a university statement said.