Coons urges renegotiating sunset clause in Iran deal

WASHINGTON – Ahead of President Donald Trump’s October 15 decision whether to decertify Iran’s adherence to the 2015 nuclear agreement, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) backed renegotiating the deal to address the sunset clause, the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that will be lifted in 2025. Coons, who voted in favor of the agreement two years ago, explained, “We should be working tirelessly to improve this arrangement… to negotiate an expanded deal that eliminates the sunset provisions in the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). That would be a significant improvement.”

The Delaware Senator — in a Tuesday conference call with reporters — called on the Trump administration to certify Tehran’s adherence to the JCPOA before intensive renegotiations to correct the “flaws” of the agreement. Coons, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, recommended that Trump issue a signing statement: “‘I am calling on my allies in Congress and our partners in this deal to dedicate the next 90 days to a focused period of negotiations, which if that fails, I will then exit the JCPOA.’ That is a much more direct way to do it. Call on Congress to join him in a bipartisan way in supporting the tougher measures we should be taking against Iran. That would demonstrate genuine leadership domestically.”

In June, the Senate overwhelmingly passed (98-2) additional bipartisan sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile program, support of terrorism across the Middle East and human rights violations. Coons charged that the White House has failed to fully implement these non-nuclear sanctions. “The administration has not yet used those powers as broadly and fully as they could or engaged our European allies in joining us in these sanctions,” he added.  

When asked if he would be willing to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA) and free the President from certifying that Tehran was complying with the deal every 90 days for political reasons, “I am willing to talk about making an amendment to INARA if that is what is required to get the President to continue to embrace the JCPOA to the extent that it is functioning to restrain Iran’s nuclear program.” Coons further added that he saw no evidence of a material breach by Tehran against the 2015 deal.

Decertifying the Iran deal will also harm the United States’ ability to conduct credible negotiations with North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, Coons emphasized.

“While the Trump administration is making a very fine distinction between decertification that is a report to Congress rather than leaving the deal, my concern is that the distinction will be lost on our allies and adversaries and incorrectly reported that he is decertifying the JCPOA or trying to leave the JCPOA,” he said.

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