Donald Trump signs a Presidential Memorandum on the Iran nuclear deal. Image Credit: AP

Washington: President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark deal curbing Iran’s nuclear programme and re-imposed crippling sanctions on Tuesday, defying European pleas and prompting international outcry.

Trump poured scorn on the “disastrous” 2015 accord, describing it as an “embarrassment” to the United States that does nothing to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia supported Trump’s decision, welcoming the US strategy in this regard. 

Read more

UAE backs Trump withdrawal from Iran deal
US tells German firms to exit Iran immediately
Iran accuses US of 'psychological warfare'
Obama calls Trump Iran move 'serious mistake'

Slapping aside more than a decade and a half of careful diplomacy by Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and past US administrations, Trump called for a “new and lasting deal.”

Grand bargain

That grand bargain, he said, would have to include not just deeper restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, but on its ballistic missiles and support for militant groups across the Middle East.

“We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” he claimed.

“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.”

It remains far from clear if the international community, or Iran, will play along.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani — whose standing at home now risks being undermined by the deal’s collapse — was furious, accusing Trump of “psychological warfare”.

Trump’s onerous demands and his warning that Iranians deserve better than their current “dictatorship” will only heighten suspicions his ultimate goal is regime change.

“If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before,” he warned.

Foreign adventures

Hawkish US officials believe that after 38 years in power, Iran’s clerical regime is substantially weakened by domestic economic pressure, changing demography, public demonstrations, and costly foreign military adventures.

The decision marked a stark diplomatic defeat for Europe, whose leaders, repeatedly and in person, begged the mercurial US leader to think again.

In a joint statement, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s Theresa May and France’s Emmanuel Macron voiced their “regret and concern” at Trump’s decision.

European firms doing business in Iran now have a six month deadline to wind up investments, or risk US sanctions, Trump’s hawkish advisor John Bolton warned, while ruling out talk of reconsideration.

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

Washington’s new ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, said on Twitter: “US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.”

And Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin made it clear that Washington was acting “under both our primary and secondary sanctions authorities,” meaning that European firms with investments or operations in the United States could be targeted if they continue to trade with Iran.

In a sign of the depth of European displeasure, plans are already being drawn up in Brussels to introduce measures blocking US sanctions, an extremely rare move against an allied government.

While Iran’s arch foes in Israel and Saudi Arabia welcomed Trump’s decision, signatories to the existing deal vowed to forge ahead without the United States.

The European Union’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini, who helped oversee the accord, insisted it was “delivering on its goal which is guaranteeing that Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons.”

“The European Union is determined to preserve it,” she added.

Trump’s decision offers him a domestic political victory, fulfilling a longstanding campaign promise and underscoring his no nonsense political brand.

‘Bold decision’

But the long term impact for American foreign policy and for the Middle East was less clear.

Former US president Barack Obama — whose administration inked the deal — made a rare public criticism of his successor, describing Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal as “misguided” and a “serious mistake.”

“The consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.”

In contrast, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last week released a trove of intelligence on a pre-2003 Iranian plan to develop a nuclear weapon which Trump cited approvingly in his speech, was overjoyed.

“Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal,” Netanyahu said, in a televised address.

Shortly after, Syrian state media reported nine pro-government fighters were killed in an Israeli missile strike near Damascus, where Iranian proxies are known to operate.

Israel had already opened bomb shelters and put the military on high alert in case of attack from the Iranian forces deployed in Syria in defence of Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

US tells German businesses to stop trade in Iran 'immediately'

German businesses should immediately halt their operations in Iran following President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, the US ambassador to Germany said Tuesday.

"As @realDonaldTrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran's economy.

"German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately," tweeted newly-appointed Richard Grenell.

Germany is one of Iran's largest trading partners, with German exports hitting some 2.6 billion euros in 2016, up 26 per cent on the previous year, according to the Ministry of Finance in Berlin.

Obama: Trump move a 'serious mistake'

Former US president Barack Obama made a rare public criticism of his successor Tuesday, describing Donald Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal as "misguided" and a "serious mistake."

"The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working," Obama said in a statement, referring to the deal his administration brokered in 2015. "That is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current US secretary of defense."

"That is why today's announcement is so misguided," he added. "I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake."

France, Germany, Britain 'regret' Trump's decision on Iran: Macron

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said that France, Germany and Britain regretted US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

"France, Germany, and the UK regret the US decision to leave the JCPOA (Iran deal). The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake," he wrote on Twitter.
"We will work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025 period, ballistic activity, and stability in the Middle-East, notably Syria, Yemen, and Iraq," he added.

Iran to negotiate with other countries

TEHRAN: Iranian President said he has ordered foreign minister to negotiate with other countries in nuclear deal.

Iranian President has said Trump has a history of undermining international treaties and Trump's move was a historical experience for Iranians. 

Saudi Arabia backs US decision

Saudi Arabia welcomed President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the international nuclear agreement with Iran and to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran.

"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," according to a statement carried on Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.

Iranian state TV says Trump decision is illegal 

Iranian state television said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal was "illegal, illegitimate and undermines international agreements".

EU 'determined to preserve' Iran nuclear deal: Mogherini

ROME  The EU is "determined to preserve" the Iran nuclear deal, the bloc's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Tuesday after President Donald Trump said the US was pulling out.

The 2015 accord "is delivering on its goal which is guaranteeing that Iran doesn't develop nuclear weapons, the European Union is determined to preserve it," Mogherini said, warning she was "particularly worried" by Trump's announcement of new sanctions.

Rouhani will respond to Trump tonight 

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will respond on state television, shortly after US counterpart Donald Trump's expected withdrawal from the nuclear deal, an Iranian official told AFP.

"If Trump speaks, President Rouhani will respond tonight" on television, said the official on condition of anonymity.

Mike Pence speaks to leaders

US Vice President Mike Pence is notifying Hill leaders that President Trump will announce withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, according to a senior congressional source, reports CNN

'Trump has decided to pull out of Iran deal'

President Donald Trump will announce he is pulling the United States out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran, a US government official told AFP.

The president has decided to withdraw from the 2015 accord, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of Trump's announcement at 2:00 pm (1800 GMT).

Trump poised to cripple nuclear deal

Donald Trump was poised to reimpose US sanctions on Iran, effectively abandoning the 2015 nuclear accord that Washington's allies believe is the last barrier against a Middle East arms race, latest media reaports say, ahead of his much anticiated address just minutes away. 

According to an unconfirmed New York Times report, Trump will reinstate all US sanctions waived under the accord and impose additional economic penalties, despite calls from European capitals for more time to negotiate a "Plan B."

Trump, who has long pledged to tear up the "very badly negotiated" agreement, was due to speak at 2:00 pm at the White House, with some supporters of the deal clinging to hopes he might only partially reinstate sanctions or allow more time for talks.

Oil plunges ahead of Trump's decision on Iran

Oil prices plunged from their highest level since 2014, as investors held their breath for a decision from US President Donald Trump on Iran's nuclear deal.

Many analysts expected Trump not to walk away from the Iran deal without offering any compromise, a hope that dragged oil prices down by around $2.00 on the benchmark WTI index and just a little less on Brent.

But some experts were more pessimistic, leading prices to resist any further falls.

World to learn fate of Iran nuclear pact in Trump address

President Donald Trump is preparing to tell the world whether he plans to follow through on his threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran and almost surely ensure its collapse.

There are no signs that European allies enlisted to "fix" the deal have persuaded him to preserve it.

In a burst of last-minute diplomacy, punctuated by a visit by Britain's top diplomat, the deal's European members gave in to many of Trump's demands, according to officials, diplomats and others briefed on the negotiations. Yet they still left convinced he is likely to re-impose sanctions and walk away from the deal he has lambasted since his days as a presidential candidate.

 A senior Western diplomat said France, Britain and Germany - which were also party to the agreement - were working on the assumption of a hard US exit after a call last week between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and European officials at which he made clear talks on rescuing the deal would not go further.

"He let it be known that it was over," the diplomat said.

European officials understood this to mean that Trump would not renew sanctions waivers, a move which would in effect kill the deal.

Trump planned to discuss his decision in a phone call on Tuesday with French President Emmanuel Macron, a senior White House official said.

Trump has consistently threatened to pull out of the 2015 agreement because it does not address Iran's ballistic missile program or its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, and does not permanently prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

European leaders have warned that a U.S. withdrawal would undo years of work that has kept nuclear weapons out of Iran's hands.

In Washington, the Republican chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee said the United States should continue to fix flaws in accord and "enforce the hell" out of it, but not withdraw.

Speaking hours before Trump was due to announce his decision, Ed Royce said tearing up the deal would not recover cash sent to Iran's government or "galvanize" allies into addressing Iran's dangerous activities.

"I fear a withdrawal would actually set back those efforts," he said in a statement.

What is the Iran nuclear deal?

Iran and a six-nation negotiating group reached a landmark agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in July 2015. It ended a 12 years of deadlock over Tehran's nuclear programme. Struck in Vienna after nearly two years of intensive talks, the deal limited the Iranian programme to reassure the rest of the world that it would be unable to develop nuclear weapons, in return for sanctions relief.

A file pictures shows Iranian workers stand in front of the Bushehr nuclear power plant. (Reuters)

At its core, the JCPOA is a straightforward bargain. Iran's acceptance of strict limits on its nuclear programme in return for an escape from the sanctions that grew up around its economy over a decade prior to the accord. Under the deal, Iran unplugged two-thirds of its centrifuges, shipped out 98% of its enriched uranium and filled its plutonium production reactor with concrete.

Tehran also accepted extensive monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has verified 10 times since the agreement, and as recently as February, that Tehran has complied with its terms. In return, all nuclear-related sanctions were lifted in January 2016 , reconnecting Iran to global markets.

Which countries are involved?

The six major powers involved in the nuclear talks with Iran were in a group known as the P5+1: the UN security council's five permanent members - China, France, Russia, the UK and the US - and Germany. The nuclear deal is also enshrined in a UN security council resolution that incorporated it into international law. The 15 members of the council at the time unanimously endorsed the agreement.

Why does Donald Trump want to scrap it?

Donald Trump's victory in US election in November 2016 put the fate of the deal in doubt. He had promised before his election to "dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran", although many believed he might instead adopt a more rigorous implementation of the agreement and tighten sanctions already in place. This could force Tehran to violate first or make the deal redundant.

In January, he reluctantly waived a raft of sanctions against Iran as required by Congress every 120 days, but said "this is a last chance" and asked "European countries to join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal". The congressional deadline Trump faces this time is 12 May, but he tweeted on Monday that he will announce his decision by Tuesday .

Trump believes the agreement is a bad deal, which falls short of addressing Iran's regional behaviour or its missile programme. He is emboldened by a group of Iran hawks in his inner circle, such as the national security adviser, John Bolton , and the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo .

Why do others want to save it?

Except for the US, all other P5+1 negotiating partners want to keep the agreement. In the words of Boris Johnson , the UK foreign secretary, who has visited Washington DC to lobby Trump not to scuttle the agreement , "of all the options we have for ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon, this pact offers the fewest disadvantages".

After the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, unveiled a cache of documents that he claimed showed Iran was cheating on the agreement , European countries pushed back against this, saying the documents underlined the importance of keeping it .