Will Trump Revoke the Iran Nuclear Deal?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif at the United Nations building in Vienna on July 14, 2015. James Phillips writes that Donald Trump has called the Iran nuclear deal “disastrous” and said his “No. 1 priority” would be to dismantle it. Leonhard Foeger/reuters

This article first appeared on The Daily Signal.

Donald Trump's election as president has discomforted many foreign leaders, especially in Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed on November 9 that there is "no possibility" that the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran will be overturned by Trump, despite Trump's threat to do so.

This is an outright lie. President Barack Obama purposely structured the deal as an executive agreement to make an end run around Congress, which he knew would oppose the flawed and risky deal.

After his inauguration, Trump would have the authority to revoke the executive agreement. Trump has called the deal "disastrous" and said his "No. 1 priority" would be to dismantle it.

Iran's state television channel reported that Rouhani told his Cabinet that Tehran's "understanding in the nuclear deal was that the accord was not concluded with one country or government but was approved by a resolution of the U.N. Security Council and there is no possibility that it can be changed by a single government."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif chimed in to urge Trump to accept the agreement. "Every U.S. president has to understand the realities of today's world. The most important thing is that the future U.S. president stick to agreements, to engagements undertaken," he said.

That is laughable advice, coming from the hypocritical leaders of a country that regularly violates international law by sponsoring terrorism, taking hostages and harassing shipping in international waters—not to mention violating U.N. Security Council resolutions by exporting arms to Palestinian extremist groups, Hezbollah attackers, Syrian militias and Yemeni rebels.

Iran has also been caught trying to covertly buy illicit dual-use nuclear technology in Germany. This violates its commitments under the nuclear agreement to obtain international approval for all nuclear purchases. The new administration could use these or other violations as a justification for doing away with the nuclear deal.

Trump has promised to enforce the nuclear deal so strictly that it will be patently clear that Iran is responsible for the deal's demise. During the presidential campaign, he said:

You know, I've taken over some bad contracts. I buy contracts where people screwed up and they have bad contracts. But I'm really good at looking at a contract and finding things within a contract that, even if they're bad, I would police that contract so tough that they don't have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract.

Iran's dictators have had an easy time out-negotiating and out-maneuvering the Obama administration, which eagerly sought to clinch a deal. The administration made huge concessions that allowed Iran to dismantle international sanctions without dismantling key elements of its nuclear program, which continues to advance.

It looks as if the Trump administration will take a much harder line on the Iran nuclear issue, which will be one of the earliest foreign policy issues it must address.

James Phillips is the senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.