Trump pulls US out of Iran nuke deal

President Trump announced Tuesday that he will withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, breaking with European allies, fulfilling a major campaign promise and dealing a significant blow to the international agreement negotiated by his predecessor.

“Today’s action sends a critical message: the United States no longer makes empty threats,” a triumphant Trump said during a televised address from the Diplomatic Room of the White House as Vice President Pence, national security adviser John Bolton and others looked on.

{mosads}The president called the accord put in place under former President Barack Obama in 2015 “a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.”  

“It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will,” he added.

Trump said old sanctions will be reimposed and that the U.S. “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement denouncing Trump’s decision while urging Iran to “continue to meet its own obligations under the deal.”

“Our governments remain committed to ensuring the agreement is upheld, and will work with all the remaining parties to the deal to ensure this remains the case including through ensuring the continuing economic benefits to the Iranian people that are linked to the agreement,” they said.

Obama called Trump’s decision “so misguided” and said it could lead to a war in the Middle East.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that his country will “start enriching uranium more than before” if the deal collapses, but said Tehran will continue negotiations with the remaining signatories to help ensure that doesn’t happen.

Trump had faced a Saturday deadline to renew the waivers on oil and banking sanctions that were lifted as part of the deal. The deal provided Tehran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for accepting limits on its nuclear program.

International inspectors and the deal’s signatories, including senior U.S. officials, have said Iran is in compliance with the terms of the agreement.

But Trump’s announcement fulfills a core promise of his 2016 campaign and he has long telegraphed he wanted to scrap the pact, calling it the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

The announcement sets off a complex, painstaking process of putting sanctions back into place.

Bolton told reporters following Trump’s announcement that all pre-deal sanctions — not just the oil and banking provisions — would be reimposed immediately, blocking new deals with Tehran.

For existing deals, there will be a wind-down period of 90 to 180 days. Bolton dismissed the notion that time might be used to force new negotiations over the nuclear agreement.

“We’re out of the deal. We’re out of the deal. We’re out of the deal,” Bolton said.

He added, however, that the U.S. is open to “broader” discussions on Iran’s “malign behavior,” including ballistic missile development and regional aggression.

In Congress, some Republicans gave Trump their full support in tearing up the deal, while others said they would have preferred that the president give Europe time to address his concerns.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) released a statement that appeared to threaten military action against Iran.

“Tough sanctions are a first step toward rolling back Iran’s campaign of terror, but it won’t be the last,” he said. “If the ayatollahs rush toward the bomb, the United States must end the program once and for all. Finally, let me say in unmistakable language: it would be a grave miscalculation of historic magnitude by the ayatollahs if they choose to attack Israel.”

Democrats ripped the decision, including critics of the deal such as Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“While I strongly opposed the [deal], it is a grave mistake to walk away from this deal without a plan for ensuring that Iran does not restart its nuclear weapon program, without a strategy for countering Iran’s dangerous non-nuclear activities, and without our allies and partners,” he said in a statement.

Trump had kept the deal alive by waiving sanctions several times since taking office at the urging of his advisers, some of whom have since left the administration, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

The president last renewed the waivers in January, when he warned he would not do so again unless European allies agreed to “fix” the nuclear deal.

Trump made it clear his concerns were not addressed, calling the agreement “defective at its core.”

The president has cited three main flaws: several nuclear restrictions sunset, inspectors cannot demand to see some military sites and the deal does not address other troubling behavior such as Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terrorists.

As the waiver deadline approached, the Europeans engaged in a flurry of activity to convince Trump to remain in the pact. Macron, Merkel and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson all visited the White House to make their case.

But the deal’s international critics were also active. Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech in English in which he declared that “Iran lied” about its nuclear intentions. Netanyahu praised Trump’s decision on Tuesday.

Bolton disputed that Iran has been in compliance with the deal, a conclusion previously backed by the Departments of Defense and State.

“I think there are plenty of cases where we’re simply incapable of saying whether they’re in compliance or not,” he told reporters. “You cannot say that Iran is in compliance unless you are 100 percent certain that the [International Atomic Energy Agency] and our intelligence is infallible.”

Supporters of the deal say the United States withdrawing gives Iran an excuse to restart its nuclear program, effectively killing the pact. Macron has warned the end of the deal “could mean war” with the country.

But some regional experts have said Iran is likely to stay in the deal even without the United States if it can continue getting benefits from the accord by being able to do business with European companies.

Despite withdrawing, Trump said the U.S. will continue to negotiate with allies on a new deal for a “real, comprehensive and lasting” solution on Iran’s nuclear program, including addressing the ballistic missile and terrorist issues.

He also left the door open to negotiating with Iran, but it’s not clear whether Tehran or other European nations would be interested in joining possible talks.

“Iran’s leaders will naturally say that they refuse to negotiate a new deal, they refuse, and that’s fine,” Trump said. “I’d probably say the same thing if I was in their position. But the fact is they are going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people. When they do, I am ready, willing, and able.”

Tags Barack Obama Bob Menendez Donald Trump Iran pact Iran sanctions nuclear Rex Tillerson Tom Cotton Trump administration

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