- - Sunday, October 15, 2017


Maximum hot air, minimum bottom line. That’s the prospect for the world over the next few weeks in the wake of President Trump’s Friday declaration that he won’t certify that the Islamic mullahs in Iran are living up to their end of the deal they made with Barack Obama. This was the one-sided agreement by which the mullahs would give up their quest for nuclear weapons.

The president’s early rhetoric was subdued, for him, perhaps because his lengthy list of denunciations of what he calls “a rogue regime” run by radicals spoke eloquently for itself. Only diplomats, trained to lie for their country, would argue with that.

Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime,” the president said. “It has spread death, destruction and chaos all around the globe.”

One of those radicals of the rogue regime, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, replied in a more colorful retort. “The Iranian people will not bend down before a dictator,” he said. “It has never surrendered and will never. No paragraph or article or note will be added [to the deal].”

That was the maximalist hot air expected if the United States, in the person of the president, declined to certify that all is well. He did not, despite some of the misleading noise of the partisan media, withdraw from the agreement — formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The president’s decision sends the agreement that nearly everyone agrees, privately or publicly, is flawed, up to Capitol Hill for repairs. The U.S. Senate is where the deal should have been thoroughly ventilated in the first place. Signed not only by representatives of the United States and Iran, but by Britain, the European Union, Russia, China, Germany and France, the agreement was correctly a treaty. A treaty must be ratified by the U.S. Senate, as set out in the Constitution so badly abused by the previous administration, but Mr. Obama knew he couldn’t muscle it past a hundred senators.

Mr. Trump, who has called the Obama-Iran agreement “a sucker deal,” cited the so-called “sunset clauses” in the agreement as particularly worrisome. These clauses enable restrictions agreed on to expire at various times, and provide loopholes to enable resumption of certain nuclear research now prohibited.

The U.S. Senate is already at work on amending the agreement. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, together with Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Marco Rubio of Florida, has been working closely with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson to write new legislation. “There are some areas that were not addressed under the nuclear agreement that we think require further addressing,” says Mr. Tillerson. “A re-opening of the agreement is unlikely.” More likely is a new agreement, specifically addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program and the expiration dates of the sunset clauses that won’t replace the deal Mr. Obama made with Iran, but addresses the two troubling issues.

Some of the early hot air about Mr. Trump’s decision about certification came from Europe, naturally, but Boris Johnson, the British foreign minister, after meeting the chairman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said that London wants to preserve the agreement, but Iran “must play its part and curb its disruptive regional role.” Who, this side of Tehran and the Democratic caucus, could argue with that?

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