While Trump’s non-certification has no formal implications for the Iran Deal, it nonetheless puts the United States in a very awkward position.
President Trump is widely expected to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal. According to pundits of the Mainstream Media, he will contend that continuing with the deal is not in the national security interests of the United States (despite his top generals explicitly stating otherwise). He will then pass the “issue” to congress, which will have to decide whether or not to re-impose sanctions.
But for the purposes of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the name of the Iran nuclear deal — this move is both formally irrelevant and diplomatically very awkward. The JCPOA is not an agreement between the United States and Iran. It is an agreement between the UN Security Council, of which the US is a member, and Iran. To be sure, the United States was the key negotiator and instigator of this deal. But it was enshrined by a vote of the Security Council in June 2015.
Resolution 2231 was passed unanimously by the Security Council. It specifically endorses the deal and calls on all parties to abide by its strictures. There is no provision in the JCPOA or Resolution 2231 that allows a party to unilaterally walk away from the deal, also not by the stroke of a pen of the US President and even when the colleague in Telaviv is notoriously insisting to take steps against Iran.
The United States president would show to everybody on the planet that the USA can un-challenged obstruct any key UN Security Council resolutions for which the United States voted just two years ago. This is simply destroying every remaining trust other nations have left to credit to the USA per se. This distrust will logically turn then into internal problems of which the USA has already more then it can bear with its debt-mountain of 17 trillion Dollar.
And if Congress approves a re-imposition of sanctions, the United States could find itself in violation of its own Security Council resolution. In the near term, this could dissolve the Iran Nuclear Deal and lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world’s most volatile region, also forcing Isreal to become clear with its nuke arsenals. In the long term, the undermining of a Security Council resolution by a member of the Security Council reduces the overall utility of the Security Council as a forum to addressing global threats.
As the North-South Korea has shown, the USA and its president mutated into good second “winners”. If the US undermines it’s own resolution on Iran, China and Russia will read from that playbook and walk back its commitments. At that point, the one international forum designed to pressure would no longer have any sort of meaningful effect.