On April 18, 2017, the U.S. Department of State notified the U.S. Congress that Iran has been complying with the conditions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”). The U.S. Department of State is required to notify the U.S. Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, and the April 18, 2017, notification was the first such notification under the Trump Administration.
However, the Secretary of State added that the Trump Administration would be engaging in an interagency review of the JCPOA, led by the National Security Council, which will “evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States” because “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror.”
In an April 19, 2017, press conference, the Secretary of State stated that the “JCPOA fails to achieve the objective of a non-nuclear Iran,” because “it only delays Iran’s goal of becoming a nuclear state.” He further stated that the Trump Administration is currently conducting “a comprehensive review” of the Iran policy, referencing the interagency review mentioned in the April 18, 2017, notification.
One possible way for the Trump Administration to halt the suspension of Iran sanctions would be to revoke, or not renew when the relevant time periods expire, the Presidential waivers issued by the Obama Administration to suspend the sanctions. In either situation, the respective sanctions would become effective again. Allowing the Presidential waivers to lapse may not in itself constitute a breach of the JCPOA, but resuming enforcement of the sanctions would constitute a breach.
The April 18, 2017, notification and the April 19, 2017, press conference do not address whether the Trump Administration plans to revoke or renew these waivers, though it is possible that the interagency review of the JCPOA could impact the decision. The Presidential waivers were last renewed on January 18, 2017, according to a January 18, 2017, letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker from Julia Frifield, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, transmitting relevant documentation on the Obama Administration’s renewal of the waivers for the maximum time period allowed under each relevant law. The first of these renewed waivers would expire on May 19, 2017, such that this date would appear to be the first opportunity for the Trump Administration to revoke or renew the waivers. We will continue to monitor this issue and post updates in this space.