President Trump announces U.S. is pulling out of Iran nuclear deal

President Donald Trump announces Tuesday he is quitting the Iran nuclear deal, pitting him against the United States' closest allies and leaving the future of Tehran's nuclear ambitions in question, multiple US officials and others familiar with the matter said.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he is quitting the Iran nuclear deal, pitting him against the United States’ closest allies and leaving the future of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in question.

“It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” Trump said from the White House Diplomatic Room. “The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing we know exactly what will happen.”

In announcing his decision, Trump said he would initiate new sanctions on the regime, crippling the touchstone agreement negotiated by his predecessor. Trump said any country that helps Iran obtain nuclear weapons would also be “strongly sanctioned.”

“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” the President said. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

Senior Trump administration officials — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats — have said Iran is adhering to its commitments under the deal. But Trump has argued while they may be sticking to the letter of the accord, they have violated its spirit by fostering discord in the region.

Trump derided the deal as an embarrassment that gave the regime dollars at the same time it sponsored terrorism.

“At the point when the US had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime — and it’s a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actually cash — a great embarrassment to me as a citizen,” Trump said.

The sanctions could take months to go into effect as the US government develops guidance for companies and banks. But reapplying the sanctions — which were lifted in exchange for Iran’s commitment to curb its nuclear program — will effectively cripple the 2015 accord that Trump has deemed a disaster.

Long a harsh critic of the nuclear accord, Trump has until now resisted taking steps to fully withdraw from the plan.

It further isolates Trump on the global stage, where he has angered even the staunchest US allies by reneging on US commitments to the Paris climate accord and pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

The grace period until the sanctions are imposed may offer the deal’s proponents an opening to negotiate, and Trump said Tuesday he was open to finding diplomatic means to address his concerns.

But the uncertainty is expected to forestall foreign investments in Iran that were made possible by the pact.

Outreach

Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill midday to inform members of Congress of Trump’s decision to withdraw, people familiar with the matter said.

Trump, meanwhile, spoke early in the day with Chinese President Xi Jinping and phoned French President Emmanuel Macron mid-morning.

A French source familiar with the call between Trump and Macron described the conversation as “very, very disappointing.”

Macron was one of several European leaders who had lobbied Trump to remain in the deal, arguing it remains the best way to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Both Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Washington to make their appeals in person.

Trump told them the deal failed to address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its support of terror in the Middle East. They appeared receptive and began negotiations on a separate deal that would address his concerns. But European diplomats expressed only pessimism that their efforts would be successful.

“It’s pretty obvious to me that unless something changes in the next few days, I believe the President will not waive the sanctions,” one European diplomat told reporters on Monday.

Trump’s final decision to withdraw from the deal was made over the weekend, according to a person familiar with the discussions, though it was long considered a foregone conclusion inside the White House.

National security adviser John Bolton, an Iran hawk who nonetheless told people he was committed to providing all options to Trump, offered a variety of paths, including reimposing all sanctions, applying new sanctions, or allowing for more time to negotiate with the Europeans.

Trump determined that more time would not bridge disagreements, most pointedly his demand that Iran’s nuclear program be curbed past the current deal’s sunset in 2030.

In his talks with Macron and Merkel, Trump left little doubt that he was planning to withdraw, according to Western diplomats. But he insisted he hadn’t made a final decision and kept his precise plans guarded.

Local Reaction

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA): “I support U.S. withdrawal from the flawed, dangerous Iran nuclear deal. The conscious decision by the Obama Administration to push through this agreement, even with bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate opposing it, should have been a clear indication this arrangement jeopardized our security. In addition to paving the way for Iran to develop nuclear weapons in a few short years, the JCPOA provided immediate sanctions relief and $100 billion to the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

“The administration’s action necessitates that the President and Congress reestablish the previous sanctions regime and develop new, harsh sanctions to hold Iran accountable not only for its attempts to develop nuclear weapons, but for its grotesque human rights abuses, openly hostile aggression in the Middle East, extensive ballistic missile testing, and support for terrorism.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA): “I strongly disagree with the President’s decision to end U.S. participation in an agreement that constrains Iran’s nuclear program and helps prevent the regime from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. U.S. military officials, past and present, have said that Iran is complying with the nuclear agreement and that it is in the best national security interest of our nation to keep it in place. This Administration’s national security leadership has repeatedly confirmed this. On October 3, 2017, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis spoke about the agreement and said, “I believe at this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something the President should consider staying with.” In testimony before Congress in April 2018, Secretary Mattis specifically referred to the intrusive nature of our ability to examine Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

“In the Senate, I led efforts to sanction and hold the Iranian regime accountable for its pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability, its development of ballistic missiles and its support for terrorist proxies. I supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) because it was the best available option to substantially constrain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and to improve oversight of their technology. At that time, Iran’s breakout time was only a matter of months. I have also worked to ensure full verification and enforcement of the Iran nuclear agreement and strongly counter their non-nuclear destabilizing actions. Pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the Administration is required to report to Congress if there is a breach of the deal. That has not yet happened.

“By taking a step that violates the JCPOA, President Trump has taken a drastic step that will increase the possibility of Iran resuming its pursuit of a nuclear weapon and make it much more difficult to reach a diplomatic agreement to constrain North Korea’s nuclear program.”