First, Trump told my friend that even though he gave Congress 90 days in October to pass legislation to fix the JCPOA, he believed that strong partisan differences among lawmakers would prevent them from passing any substantive fixes. I believe that this remains the president’s view.
So why would the president kick the nuclear deal to Congress for a second time if he predicts that Congress will not act?
That brings me to a second possible reason for president’s decision: As much as he hates the JCPOA and wants to kill it, he told my friend, North Korea takes precedence, and he does not want both crises blowing up at the same time. Given the extremely high tensions with North Korea and the need to work with our allies to isolate Pyongyang, it makes sense that President Trump might want to delay gutting the Iran deal at this time.
There may be a third reason President Trump extended the Iran deal: He needs better personnel to implement an exit from the JCPOA. With rumors swirling that McMaster and Tillerson could leave the administration over the next couple of months, Trump might be postponing a decision to exit the JCPOA until they are replaced by advisers who will fully support and aggressively implement such a decision.