After undertaking a broader review of the United States’ policies with regard to Iran, President Donald Trump announced today that he will not certify the Iran nuclear deal, more commonly referred as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”). This move stops short of unraveling the deal but allows Congress to consider the agreement for the next 60 days on an expedited basis in order to decide whether to re-impose sanctions lifted under the terms of the agreement.

In refusing to certify Iran’s compliance, the President is not declaring that Iran has violated the terms of the JCPOA which imposed limits on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of certain sanctions. Rather, President Trump stated that Iran is “not living up to the spirit” of the agreement and invoked a provision in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (“INARA”), which asks whether the lifting of sanctions against Iran is in the national security interest of the United States and whether the action is “appropriate and proportionate” related to Iran’s efforts to restrict its nuclear program.

President Trump’s refusal to certify the criteria in INARA has no direct or immediate impact on the JCPOA. President Trump indicated a desire to “fix” some of the JCPOA provisions that he disagrees with. As a result, Congress may take action to impose sanctions which would put the US in breach of the JCPOA, or Congress may try to “fix” the problems, possibly by establishing “trigger points” which could induce the US to re-impose sanctions.

President Trump also announced a broad strategy toward Iran that will focus on “neutralizing the government of Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants.” As part of that strategy, the President authorized the Department of the Treasury to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (“IRGC”) as a terrorist organization and impose new sanctions again the IRGC. While the IRGC is already included on the Specially Designated Nationals (“SDN”) list and is blocked from most activity, today’s action will no longer allow the group to avail themselves of the Berman exception under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act which authorizes certain personal communications, humanitarian donations, informational materials and travel.

Husch Blackwell’s Export Controls and Economic Sanctions Team continues to monitor developments with regard to Iran and other U.S. export controls and sanctions programs and will provide regular updates as further information becomes available.