The United States has pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday, upending a key foreign policy achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama.
Under the 2015 deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), involving five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, Iran had agreed to stop its nuclear programme in exchange of relief from economic sanctions.
“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction,” Mr. Trump said. The President has directed his administration to immediately begin the process of re-imposing sanctions that were lifted by the JCPOA, the White House said in a statement, moments after he announced the decision. “The re-imposed sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy, such as its energy, petrochemical, and financial sectors,” it said.
Mr. Trump’s decision to formally end America’s participation in the deal that curtailed Iran’s nuclear ambitions could strain its relations with key allies like France, Germany and the United Kingdom, aggravate tensions with Russia and China, and add to instability in West Asia.
Repeating his long-held views on the deal, the President said JCPOA failed to deal with the threat of Iran’s missile programme and did not include a strong enough mechanism for inspections and verification. Accusing Iran of “malign activities in the region”, Mr. Trump said America would not surrender to “nuclear blackmail by Iran.”
“The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime could still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. The deal’s sunset provisions are totally unacceptable. If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East,” said Mr. Trump.
He said if Iran continues its nuclear aspirations, “it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before“.
The President had termed the Iran nuclear deal a “disaster” during the 2016 campaign and vowed to end it if elected. He was restrained for months by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster who were replaced recently. Their successors, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton share Mr. Trump’s hawkish views on Iran.
Mr. Trump has also been goaded into exit from the deal by his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Trump cited documents released by Mr. Netanyahu recently to underscore this point that the Iran deal was based on deception by Tehran.
In walking out of the deal that started the process of integrating Iran into the global mainstream, Mr. Trump has ignored pleas by France, Germany and the U.K. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson all travelled to Washington DC in recent days to talk Mr. Trump out of this path.
Though the formal exit of America from the deal happened only with Mr. Trump’s announcement on Tuesday, the country has already been in violation of the agreement, according to some commentators, who point out the Trump administration’s active role in stopping commercial agreements Iran sought with Western companies. Under the deal, the U.S was to help Iran integrate into the global economy. The Trump administration has been pressing European countries to stay away from commercial deals with Iran already. Boeing, one American entity that was allowed to do business with Iran by the Obama administration, has not proceeded with the opportunity.
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the governments of Iran, Russia, and China would “seize this opportunity of self-imposed U.S. isolation to continue major weapons sales, deepen economic ties, and further challenge the United States and Europe not only in the Middle East but in other areas like North Korea”.
“With this decision President Trump is risking U.S. national security, recklessly upending foundational partnerships with key U.S. allies in Europe and gambling with Israel’s security. Today’s withdrawal from the JCPOA makes it more likely Iran will restart its nuclear weapons program in the future,” he said.