Review of Domestic and International Legal Implications of Implementing the Agreement with Iran

Headnotes: 

While a number of the presidential actions implementing the agreement with Iran are likely to be the subject of domestic legal challenge, a review of the authorities previously relied on by the Office of Legal Counsel and by the Attorney General in his January 19, 1981, opinion leads to the conclusion that those actions are well within the President’s power under the Constitution and applicable statutes and treaties.

A persuasive argument can be made that the agreement with Iran was procured by the threat or use of force in violation of principles of international law, and is thus void ab initio under Article 52 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.  As the party coerced, the United States may decide whether it wishes to repudiate the agreement, though it would be desirable to seek confirmation of the appropriateness of that action from an independent legal body, such as the International Court of Justice. Private litigants would have no standing to contest in United States courts any decision that
the President may make in this respect.

Should the United States decide to repudiate the agreement with Iran, a number of questions would arise relating to the disposition of Iranian assets already transferred to the escrow account pursuant to the agreement, or still frozen in domestic accounts.

Updated July 9, 2014