President Trump indicated today that he will not certify that the Iranians are in compliance with the nuclear agreement negotiated under President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. The response from our Congressional leaders, and our Allies, not too surprisingly, is one of concern. Indeed, the British, French and Germans all signed a joint statement expressing their “concern.” They went on to express their concern, as did Trump, about Iran’s ballistic missile program–something which, coincidentally, is not a part of the nuclear agreement, but quite obviously should have been. After all, what purpose does an intermediate range ballistic missile serve, if you don’t have the warhead to put atop the missile?
As previously mentioned in this blog, the Iranians are practically using North Korea as their own test facility in addition to aiding the NORKs in the miniaturization of a nuclear warhead. If this is indeed the case, they clearly, then, are in violation of the spirit of the agreement, as President Trump mentioned today. After all, the agreement simply alluded to Iran’s domestic nuclear ambitions and infrastructure–nothing was mentioned about continuing their research elsewhere and assisting other countries–something which Anthony Cordesman refers to in his article about Iranian and North Korean nuclear cooperation. (You can read his article here.)
Personally, I think the biggest cause for concern, and a few commentators have alluded to this, is that this adds one more huge item to the agenda of an already bewildered, dumbfounded and virtually paralyzed congress. Congress has spent much, if not most, of the year on Health Care reform with nothing to show for it. Tax reform is now in the forefront with Health Care reform on the back burner though it will need to be addressed before it collapses altogether. Then, there is the question of North Korea–not so much a Congressional issue but certainly one in which 535 secretaries of state will want to have their say. So, with a Republican Congress that seemingly doesn’t want to lead–or doesn’t know how to–one more item like this on their agenda could seem overwhelming, even disturbing.
I think President Trump’s move is the right one, but we’ll need a few more people other than General John Kelly, General H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis to step up to the plate.