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Trump at the CPAC political conference in February. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

President Trump will announce Friday that he'll refuse to certify Iran's compliance with Congress' law overseeing the nuclear deal; but he will not withdraw America from the deal, per sources familiar with the speech's contents.

Bottom line: Trump isn't withdrawing but he's setting the Iran deal on a perilous course and giving a huge opening to Iran hawks on Capitol Hill to ultimately destroy this agreement.

Trump's speech will focus very little on the certification question and much more on the Trump administration's big picture strategy to deal with Iran. Trump will focus on Iran's non-nuclear misbehavior — its funding of terrorist outfits like Hezbollah, export of foreign fighters, and broader malign activities in the Middle East such as trying to overthrow the government in Yemen.

By refusing to certify Iran's compliance with the deal, Trump leaves Congress three options:

  1. Do nothing; don't apply new sanctions and leave the existing law in place. The upshot: Trump will have strained relations with Iran and European allies but nothing will have substantively changed. Obama's nuclear deal remains intact.
  2. Snap sanctions back on Iran. The upshot: America tears up the nuclear deal.
  3. "Fix" the deal: This is the option Trump is likely to push. Domestically, fixing/strengthening will be done either through Congress; or by executive order if Congress can't or won't pass legislation that toughens the deal.

The Corker-Cotton deal is important because these two GOP senators, who are influential on foreign policy, had differing opinions about what should be included in this legislation but they figured it out behind closed doors. Still going to be a huge lift to get to 60 votes. Unlikely they'll receive much Democratic support.

What's new: As far as the international arena goes, White House officials explained to outside experts yesterday that they believe they can work with the Europeans or go it alone to set benchmarks that the Iranians will be forced to follow or else risk being completely cut-off from the international system. This is designed to address concerns that any fix will require cooperation from the Russians and Chinese — something nobody thinks will happen.

  • A source who was briefed on the conversation explained to Axios that the Americans and Europeans can decide among themselves to condition Iran's continuing access to the global financial system on Iran not exploiting the sunset clauses in the current deal to get a nuke.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
5 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

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