How is Trump able to withdraw from the Iran deal without Congressional approval?

1 Answer 1


From Wikipedia:

Under U.S. law, the JCPOA is a non-binding political commitment. According to the U.S. State Department, it specifically is not an executive agreement or a treaty. There are widespread incorrect reports that it is an executive agreement. In contrast to treaties, which require two-thirds of the Senate to consent to ratification, political commitments require no congressional approval, and are not legally binding as a matter of domestic law (although in some cases they may be binding on the U.S. as a matter of international law).

It was not approved by Congress in general (as laws must be) nor approved by the Senate (as treaties must be). Barack Obama signed it on his own authority as president. Donald Trump withdrew from it under his authority as president, since he replaced Barack Obama.

Congress did pass provisions requiring that the president review the deal and certify that it was working. Obama did this regularly. At the beginning of his administration Trump also did these certifications, apparently on the advice of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. He stopped certifying this October 13th, 2017. Anyway, these provisions restricted the president's acceptance of the deal, not withdrawal.

Presumably Obama thought that he was going to be replaced by a president who would choose to stay in the deal. So he wasn't so worried about forcing that. In addition, it's not clear that he had sufficient congressional support to make a more permanent deal, either by treaty or by passing a law removing the sanctions.

  • So is it a matter of choice (of the President) whether he (the President) wants to go ahead with the deal as a political commitment (and therefore not requiring senate approval) or as a treaty? In other words, are there any guidelines with regard to this or is it simply up to the President?
    – WorldGov
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 15:45
  • 25
    @WorldGov In general, a 'political commitment' is completely meaningless under U.S. law. Obama knew he didn't have the support of 2/3 of the Senate to properly agree to the deal as a legitimate treaty, so he attempted to circumvent the Constitutional requirement for Senate ratification by making a non-binding deal. There aren't really 'guidelines' for when to do that, as it's not a thing that is recognized under U.S. law in the first place.
    – reirab
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 16:57
  • @TexasRed Brythan's answer specifically says that it was NOT an Executive Agreement Commented May 12, 2018 at 2:31
  • @MatthewFitzGerald-Chamberlain Ah, that was a mis-reading on my part, and I have deleted my above comment. It might be worth someone submitting a different answer to this question, which apparently has an incorrect answer: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/8616/…
    – Texas Red
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 22:21

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