Within days, international monitors will send an inspection report on Iran’s nuclear facilities to governments around the world, touching off a chain of events that could lead to another clash between President Trump and congressional Republicans, or even his own top advisers.
In dry and highly technical language, the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency is likely to show that Iran — with perhaps minor lapses — is largely complying with the 2015 nuclear accord, experts say. And that is where the problems will begin for the Trump administration.
No matter what the inspection report says, Mr. Trump has declared that he expects by October to determine that Iran is violating the deal, adding in late July that “if it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago.”
Such a declaration could end the nuclear deal, which imposed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities for 15 years in exchange for sanctions relief. Mr. Trump, who has called the pact an egregious giveaway to Iran, has the power by himself to scrap it and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
Senate Republicans have signaled unease with the president’s vow to undo the deal and his own security advisers recommend preserving it, but the White House is giving serious consideration to alternatives that stop short of abandoning the accord. Under one option, the Trump administration could declare that Iran is violating the deal but say that the United States intends to keep it in place for now and not immediately reimpose sanctions.
Under this option, Congress would then have 60 days to decide on its own whether to reimpose nuclear sanctions, a situation that many Republicans on Capitol Hill are not eager to face, despite their forceful denunciations of the accord two years ago.
Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who led the unanimous Senate Republican opposition to the deal in 2015, said at a recent event that he had warned Mr. Trump that “you can only tear the agreement up one time.” Doing so now, Mr. Corker said, would generate a self-created crisis.
Calls placed to more than 20 Senate offices of opponents of the deal found few willing to discuss their positions publicly. Mirroring Republican unease, some of the groups that once fiercely opposed the deal are similarly silent.
A spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which underwrote a multimillion-dollar national advertising campaign against the deal in 2015, refused to answer questions about whether the organization now wanted it scrapped. Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, another group that sought to defeat the Iran deal, said he did not want the deal summarily scrapped. Continue reading.