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State Department: Nuclear Deal Is Unsigned and Not “Legally Binding” on Iran

The State Department acknowledged that the nuclear deal with Iran is not a binding agreement, but rather a set of “political commitments,” the National Review reported [1] Wednesday. The admission was made in response to an inquiry from Rep. Mike Pompeo (R – Kan.).

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” wrote Julia Frifield, the State Department assistant secretary for legislative affairs, in the November 19 letter.

Frifield wrote the letter in response to a letter Pompeo sent Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he observed that the deal the president had submitted to Congress was unsigned and wondered if the administration had given lawmakers the final agreement. Frifield’s response emphasizes that Congress did receive the final version of the deal. But by characterizing the JCPOA as a set of “political commitments” rather than a more formal agreement, it is sure to heighten congressional concerns that Iran might violate the deal’s terms.

“The success of the JCPOA will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures we have put in place, as well as Iran’s understanding that we have the capacity to re-impose — and ramp up — our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments,” Frifield wrote to Pompeo.

Reacting to the State Department’s letter, Pompeo released a statement [2], saying, “unsigned, this agreement is nothing more than a press release and just about as enforceable.” Pompeo also called on Congress to “stand ready, willing, and unified in combating aggression by a regime who continues to view America as the ‘Great Satan’ and has been emboldened by this deal.”

The administration’s view of the nuclear agreement contrasts sharply with Iran’s. In a letter [3] published this March, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif argued that the United Nations Security Council’s ratification of the deal would effectively bind the United States to its terms. “If the next administration revokes any agreement with the stroke of a pen, as they boast, it will have simply committed a blatant violation of international law,” he wrote.

Notably, since the deal was signed, President Hassan Rouhani and other Iranian officials have conversely stated [4] that Iran is not bound by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

[Photo: UNVIE U.S. Mission To International Organizations in Vienna / Flickr [5] ]