The certification is required under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA). INARA requires the U.S. Administration to periodically: (i) inform the U.S. Congress of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA and (ii) renew waivers under certain U.S. Iran related sanctions regimes.
However, the letter also contains the disdain which the Trump Administration has for Tehran. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled that the Trump Administration is reviewing whether continued sanctions relief under the JCPOA would be appropriate. Although expected, given President Trump’s ranting over Iran and the JCPOA, it’s unclear what the outcome of the review will be.
U.S. President’s Obligations under INARA
Under INARA, the U.S. President must certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA.
If the President fails to make the certification or advises Congress that Iran has materially breached its JCPOA obligations, then the statute provides for expedited congressional consideration of legislation re-imposing sanctions.
What could this mean for the JCPOA?
The deal could rapture apart, if and when the JCPOA partners – especially Iran or the U.S. – walk away from the deal.
Iran could treat any failure to renew the waivers as a breach of the JCPOA, and initiate dispute resolution proceedings under paragraphs 36-37 of the agreement.
Given the upcoming election Iranian presidential elections, the incendiary text of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will most probably fuel the flames of mistrust for the U.S. to honor its JCPOA obligations given the disappointing economic results since the deal was concluded.
The question is whether Iran will be open to negotiate possible concessions in regard to its ballistic missile program, support of terrorist groups, and it’s support for Syrian President Assad?
Possibly more ominous, is the scenario in which failure to renew waivers, possibly provoked by the failure of negotiations (i.e. failure of the Trump Administration to extract concessions from Iran) would lead to the re-imposition of U.S. Secondary Sanctions.
This would in all probability rapture the JCPOA, but could also leave the U.S. isolated from close allies, e.g. the EU, as it’s highly questionable whether the EU partners would be willing to re-impose comprehensive sanctions against Iran.