Trump Exits Iran Nuclear Deal, Restores Tough Economic Sanctions on Tehran Regime
US President Donald Trump finally exited the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran on Tuesday, pledging at a special briefing at the White House that he will immediately impose the “highest level of economic sanctions” to deter the Tehran regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Trump declared, “We will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most dangerous weapons on the Earth.”
Under a congressional act passed in September 2015, the US president is required to certify Iranian compliance with the JCPOA — the technical name for the nuclear deal — every 90 days. Trump had certified Iranian compliance three times during his presidency, despite slamming the JCPOA — the signature diplomatic achievement of the previous Obama Administration — as “the worst deal ever.”
Trump was no less forgiving of his predecessor on Tuesday, stating that the “disastrous deal gave this regime — a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash.”
Accusing Iran of supporting “terrorist proxies and militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban and Al Qaeda,” Trump charged that the “so-called Iran deal was supposed to protect the US and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb.”
Instead, he continued, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium to “the brink of nuclear breakout.” Trump added that “crippling” economic sanctions had been lifted in exchange for “very weak” limits on Iran’s nuclear activities, and none at all on its ballistic missile program and support for terrorist groups across the Middle East. “We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of current agreement,” he asserted.
“If the Iranian regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before,” Trump warned.
Following Trump’s announcement, a senior White House official confirmed that the US was now “out” of the deal. “The decision that the president signed immediately puts sanctions back in place that existed at the time of the deal,” the official said. The official added that the Treasury Department would shortly announce “wind-down provisions” for those companies with existing contracts in Iran.
Trump did hold out the prospect of a negotiated solution with the Iranian regime, pointing to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s arrival in North Korea on Tuesday to prepare for the president’s upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un. Iran would want to make “a new, lasting deal,” Trump predicted. “When they do, I am ready, willing and able.”
Trump said that as “we exit the Iran deal, we will be working with our allies to find a real comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat.” According to the White House official who briefed journalists after the president’s statement, US policy will now focus “on a much broader resolution of the malign behavior we have seen from Iran.” In that regard,the official said, consultations with key US allies including France, Germany and the UK on the aftermath of the US exit would “resume early on Wednesday morning.”
Trump made special mention of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unveiling last week of a secret trove of Iranian nuclear intelligence captured by Israel. Trump said the archive of documents in Israel’s possession proved that the 2015 deal was based on the “fiction” that Iran intended to pursue a civilian nuclear program only. In a statement released following Trump’s announcement, Netanyahu said that “Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran.”
“As we exposed last week, since the deal, Iran intensified its efforts to hide its secret nuclear weapons program,” Netanyahu said.
Trump strongly criticized the sunset clauses in the 2015 deal that will lift all nuclear restrictions on Iran by 2030, arguing that continued US backing for the JCPOA would merely accelerate the path to a regional conflict. “If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” Trump remarked. “Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.”
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince has spoken openly in recent weeks of Riyadh seeking nuclear weapons in the event that Iran, its arch-rival, is not restrained. “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible,” Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman told CBS News in March.
Trump was also careful to stress American support for Iran’s people, who had suffered for “nearly 40 years since this dictatorship seized power.”
“The future of Iran belongs to its people,” Trump said. “There has been enough suffering, death and destruction — let it end now.” A subsequent statement from the White House Press Secretary stressed that in addition to “never developing a nuclear weapon,” Trump expected the Iranian leadership to end “its publicly declared quest to destroy Israel” as well as its “grievous human rights abuses.”
Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, confirmed on Tuesday that Iran would remain within the JCPOA, saying that Trump “has a history of undermining international treaties.”
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated their “continuing commitment” to the deal in a joint statement.
“We encourage Iran to show restraint in response to the decision by the US; Iran must continue to meet its own obligations under the deal, co-operating fully and in a timely manner,” the statement from the three European leaders said.