In a much-anticipated decision Tuesday, President Trump formally withdrew the U.S. from a 2015 Obama-era agreement with Iran, vowing to reimpose rigid sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.
Formally titled the The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement between Iran and representatives of the U.S., the UK, France, Russia, China, Germany, and the European Union (EU) was signed in Vienna in July 2015.
Under the agreement, Iran assented to a litany of restrictions on its nuclear research, limitations on enriched uranium stockpiles, and reductions to its gas centrifuges. Iran also agreed to allow inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor compliance.
During a White House address Tuesday, Trump announced he would not sign a waiver to extend Iran relief from sanctions the 2015 agreement lifted against Tehran.
Describing the deal as “defective at its core,” a “giant fiction,” and Iran a “murderous regime,” Trump declared:
“It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing we know exactly what will happen. This was 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.”
Under a Treasury Department plan, any renewed sanctions against Iran would not begin for minimum 90 days and would include penalties on Iran’s oil sector, its aircraft exports, precious metals, and attempts by Iran to buy U.S. treasury notes.
Reaction to Trump’s decision on both Capital Hill and the world was swift, but mixed.
Some lawmakers, such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was opposed to Obama’s Iran deal in 2015, said:
“To me, the right thing to do would have been to try and come up with our allies with an agreement on those issues and let the nuclear part of this continue as is because it’s not being violated in any way.”
In the House, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), voiced concern over the reversal in large part because the U.S. would be unable to recover the billions in cash Obama returned to Tehran.
“I believe the best path forward at this point is to continue pushing to fix these flaws as we enforce the hell out of the deal,” Royce said.
Overseas, mainly in Europe, President Trump was criticized for walking away from the deal by U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who had appealed to Trump not tear up the deal as recently as last week.
Officials in Germany, the U.K., France and the EU all issued statements revealing they would not reimpose sanctions on Iran despite the U.S. action.
However, not all regional players supported Trump. Syria, an ally of Iran, assailed Trump’s decision, as did Turkey, which expressed concern over new challenges posed by the U.S. decision to tear up the deal.
In a statement expressing “disappointment,” the Russian Foreign Ministry dispatched a press release blasting Trump’s decision, saying it found the U.S. in violation of international law:
“We are gravely concerned that the United States is acting once again in defiance of the opinions of the majority of states and exclusively out of its own narrow and opportunistic interests while grossly violating international law,” it read.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised President Trump for the move, referred to the president as “brave,” and thanked the U.S. for withdrawing from the deal.
“(The Iran deal was) a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world,” Netanyahu said in a televised address.
In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani hit out at Trump and the U.S. in a televised address, calling the U.S. a liar and unwilling to remain faithful to its commitments.
“For 40 years we’ve said and repeated that Iran always abides by its commitments, and the US never complies. Our 40-year history shows us Americans have been aggressive towards great people of Iran and our region,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani also stated Iran would resume its uranium enrichment if the deal falls apart completely.
In a lengthy statement on Facebook, former President Barack Obama criticized the decision to abandon the pact, saying the agreement is working and it has significantly “rolled back” Iran’s nuclear program.
[AP] [Roll Call] [Reuters] [RT] [Photo courtesy REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst]