US withdraws from Iran nuclear deal
LONDON – US President Donald Trump announced the United States withdrawal from the "defective" multinational nuclear deal with Iran, as Washington moved to reinstate punishing sanctions against the Islamic republic.
"The Iran deal is defective at its core," Trump said in a televised address from the White House. "I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal."
After consulting US "friends" from across the Middle East, Trump said, "it is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement."
"America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail," Trump vowed.
"We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction and we will not allow a regime that chants 'Death to America' to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth."
Following his address, the US leader signed a presidential memorandum to start reinstating US nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime.
"We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction," Trump said. "Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States."
National Security Advisor John Bolton told reporters after Trump's speech that the US sanctions would apply to new contracts "immediately," and that foreign firms would have months to wind down existing operations in Iran.
Describing Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terror, and decrying its influence in the Middle East, Trump said the United States intended to work with its allies to "find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat."
Such a solution, he said, would include efforts to eliminate the threat from Iran's ballistic missile programme, stop its "terrorist activities" worldwide, and block its "menacing" activity across the region.
In the meantime, Trump warned, "if the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had."
Trump had long pledged to tear up the "very badly negotiated" agreement -- which his predecessor Barack Obama agreed with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia -- daring Tehran's regime to restart its enrichment programme and alleged quest for a nuclear weapon.
The US leader had until May 12 to decide whether to continue to waive sanctions on Iran's central bank and its oil sector dealings, a key pillar of the 2015 agreement.
Welcome by Trump’s principle allies in Mideast
Trump's announcement was hailed by Washington's principle allies in the Middle East.
The deal was "a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world," Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has long opposed the deal vocally, said in praising Trump's decision to quit.
Saudi Arabia also hailed Trump's decision: "Iran used economic gains from the lifting of sanctions to continue its activities to destablise the region, particularly by developing ballistic missiles and supporting terrorist groups in the region," said a statement carried on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.
EU 'determined to preserve' Iran deal
Despite lobbying from European allies, Trump moved forward with his campaign promise to pull out of the President Barack Obama-era agreement.
Europe expressed regret over Trump’s decision and said they would to try keep the pact alive.
"The European Union is determined to preserve it," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said of the world powers' 2015 agreement with Tehran. "Together with the rest of the international community, we will preserve this nuclear deal."
"I am particularly worried by the announcement tonight of new sanctions," she added.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he regretted the decision and would work on a broader agreement covering Iran's nuclear activity, ballistics programme and regional activities.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said scrapping the Iran deal meant more instability in the Middle East and said he "deeply regrets" the announcement by Trump: "EU and its international partners must remain committed and Iran must continue to fulfil its obligations."
The chairman of EU leaders' talks, Donald Tusk, said Trump's stance on Iran and international trade "will meet a united European approach" and that all 28 EU leaders will discuss the matter when they meet in the Bulgarian capital next week.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said he'd send his foreign minister to negotiate with countries remaining in the nuclear deal, warning he otherwise would restart enriching uranium "in the next weeks."
Rohani stressed that the deal could survive without the US.
"If at the end of this short period, we've conclude that we are able to achieve our demands in the deal, the deal will survive," Rohani said.
Iranian state television did not broadcast Trump's speech live, but carried his remarks in the crawl at the bottom of the screen and later recounted some of them.
Earlier on the day, Rohani stressed Iran wants to keep "working with the world and constructive engagement with the world." That appeared to be a nod to Europe, which has struck a series of business deals with Iran since the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran likely hopes the European Union will pass laws to protect European firms from any potential US sanctions.
The United States also came under fire from Iran's first vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri.
"Today, the biggest power in the world is yelling that it does not accept it (the deal)," Jahangiri said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. "It's up to them what to do with the deal, but (from now on) naive individuals would accept to enter talks with such a country."
"We are ready and have a plan for managing the country under any circumstance," he added.
Jahangiri's comments come as Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this year, where negotiations will undoubtedly include talks about the Asian country's atomic weapons programme.
Iran's 2015 nuclear deal imposed restrictions on the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of most of the US and international sanctions against Tehran.
However, the deal came with time limits and did not address Iran's ballistic missile programme or its regional policies. Trump has repeatedly pointed at that, while referring to the accord as the "worst deal ever." However, proponents of the deal have said those time limits were to encourage more discussion with Iran in the future that could grow into addressing those other concerns.
Many in Tehran and elsewhere in the country are worried about what Trump's decision could mean for the country.
Already, the Iranian rial is trading on the black market at 66,000 to the dollar, despite the government-set rate being at 42,000 to $1. Many say they have not seen the benefits of the nuclear deal.
Iran's poor economy and unemployment already sparked nationwide protests in December and January that saw at least 25 people killed and, reportedly, nearly 5,000 arrested.
(The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)