This is a short post on the next steps after President Trump decertified the Iran Nuclear Agreement.
What it means now that the President Decertified the Iran Nuclear Agreement
Two documents primarily govern the Iran Nuclear Agreement. First, the Agreement itself is a 159 page behemoth that represents an historic cooperation between the United States and its diplomatic partners on the one hand, and Iran on the other. Read the full text of the Agreement here. Second is the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (H.R. 1191, enacted into law May 22, 2015 as Public Law 114-17). Read the full text of the Act here. The Review Act amended the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 to authorize the President to enter into the Iran Nuclear Agreement, which was finalized in Vienna on July 14, 2015.
As amended, Section 135(d)(6)(A) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 requires the President every 90 days to certify Iran’s compliance or notify Congress that he is unable to do so. President Trump’s has now decertifed the Iran Nuclear Agreement, which now triggers Section 135(e). That section permits (but does not require) the House or the Senate to submit “qualifying legislation” reimposing sanctions within 60 days of the President’s decertification. Such qualifying legislation is entitled to expedited review with accelerated committee schedules and typically lengthy Senate debates limited to 10 hours. And Points of Order are waived entirely. See generally Section 135(e)(1)-(6).
As you can see, the consequences of President Trump having decertified the Iran Nuclear Agreement are entirely political in nature and relegated to the Legislative Branch.
What will the Legislative Branch do now that the President Decertified the Iran Nuclear Agreement
As I explained, the process is not automatic. The leaders of the House or Senate have sixty days to introduce legislation to reimpose the sanctions that were in place prior to the deal. That proposed legislation will be given expedited review, but of course that is no guarantee that it will pass.
Press reports suggest that the President is seeking to have Congress reimpose trigger points that will result in resumption of sanctions. However, remember that Congress did not approve the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 in May of 2015, two months before the United States and its diplomatic parters entered into the actual Iran Nuclear Agreement. That agreement is not bilateral between the United States and Iran. It is multilateral between Iran and the Joint Commission Participants, defined on in the preface to the Agreement as China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the United States, with the High Representative for the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The United States–through Congress–cannot unilaterally renegotiate the deal. The most it can do is decertify Iran’s compliance and then effectively scrap the deal entirely by ending sanctions relief that the deal provided.
Of course, without a deal in place, Iran will be free to proceed however it wishes.