U.S. Senator Chris Coons' Statement on Iran Nuclear Agreement

October 11, 2017

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the following statement in response to news reports that President Trump is planning to avoid certifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement it signed with the United States and the P5+1 countries last year, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Under current U.S. law, the President is required to update Congress every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the agreement and state whether the agreement remains in the United States’ national interest.

“I am deeply concerned by news reports indicating that President Trump will not certify to Congress that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal is in America’s national security interest. I think that strict enforcement of JCPOA remains in our national interest, and I think it’s striking that both Secretary of Defense James Mattis and General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have recently testified that there is no evidence of a material breach by Iran of commitments under the deal. 

“I think that the President’s de-certification that it is in our national security interest will be misunderstood and may lead to an unconstructive and ultimately destructive 60 day debate in the Senate. If the United States Congress were to re-impose sanctions on Iran, that would lead to significant damage to the Iran Deal. I don’t think this is the time for us to abandon the JCPOA and, while the Trump administration is making a very fine distinction between a de-certification that is a report to Congress rather than leaving the deal, I’m concerned that that distinction will be lost on our allies and adversaries, and that it will be incorrectly reported that he’s de-certifying the JCPOA or trying to leave the JCPOA.

“I ultimately supported the Iran Deal because it represented an opportunity to partner with some of our vital allies in Europe and some of our adversaries globally to impose enforceable limits on Iran’s nuclear program. I never believed it was a perfect deal. I never believed that Iran would abandon its aggressive actions in the region, but it struck me as the least bad option on the table at the time it was presented to Congress for us to review. The JCPOA within its limited terms has succeeded so far in restraining Iran’s nuclear program. At a time when we face significant national security threats, not least of which is confronting North Korea’s aggressive nuclear program, it is unclear to me why President Trump would abandon the leverage he gets by this 90-day re-certification and why he would risk causing our allies and our partners in the P5+1 questioning our credibility. I think it is unlikely that North Korea and our key partners would negotiate with us if we were to renege on the JCPOA and so I see this as a moment of great risk because the President’s step, assuming he does go ahead, as has been reported, and de-certify tomorrow, will be misunderstood as leaving the JCPOA. 

“I have said to some of the most senior members of the Administration that President Trump should instead lead in a bipartisan way. President Trump would find broad bipartisan support in the Senate for urging new negotiations for an addendum agreement that would extend the JCPOA sunset clauses, address Iran’s aggressive ballistic missile program, and its other malign activity in the Middle East, and I am concerned that, instead of taking that promising, positive opportunity, the Administration is on the verge of de-certifying that this agreement is in our national security interest."