The two-month mark is fast approaching when Congress could reimpose sanctions on Iran, possibly giving leaders in Tehran the right to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, that bars them from pursuing nuclear weapons.
President Donald Trump opened the door to renewed sanctions when he announced on Oct. 13 that he would not certify to Congress that Tehran was in compliance with the deal. He didn’t blow up the agreement. Instead, his decision started a 60-day clock that runs out this week, giving Congress the right to restore penalties lifted by the Obama administration as part of the 2015 deal struck by Iran and the P5+1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.
In essence, he punted to the lawmakers.
Since then, Trump and his advisors have been decidedly ambiguous about what they intend to do about the nuclear agreement. Do they want to tear it up completely, or use it as a bargaining tool to get the Iranians to tone down their aggressive activities in the region? Does Trump intend to complain about the treaty, but still abide by the agreement’s provisions because he knows it is better to have something in place restraining Iran’s nuclear program than not?
Trump seems to be pursuing a minimalist strategy that is the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt’s famous maxim, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” So far, Trump’s style is more akin to, “Yell at the top of your lungs, but brandish a wet noodle.”