Calling it “decaying and rotten,” President Trump announced he is withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and will be imposing more sanctions on the Middle Eastern nation.
Trump signed a presidential memorandum on May 8 withdrawing the U.S. from the controversial agreement signed by his predecessor in 2015. He said he will be re-instituting the highest level of sanctions and warned other countries against helping the Iranian government.
Trump said the U.S. would “not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail” and will not allow “a regime that chants ‘death to America'” to get nuclear weapons.
Vice President Mike Pence told congressional leaders ahead of Trump’s announcement that the administration planned to withdraw from the deal.
The nuclear deal with Iran has long been a point of contention, especially among Republicans who opposed it.
The administration extended waivers on Iran’s nuclear sanctions earlier this year, keeping alive the landmark deal for an additional few months.
What is the Iran nuclear deal?
The Iran nuclear deal framework – officially the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” – was a historic agreement reached by Iran and several world powers, including the U.S., in 2015, under Barack Obama’s presidency.
In part, the deal was made to reduce Iran’s ability to produce two components used in making nuclear weapons: plutonium and uranium. In return, crippling economic sanctions on Iran were to be abated.
“Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off,” Obama said at the time. “This deal is not built on trust. It is built on verification.”
A point of contention for many opponents is the deal’s so-called “sunset clause” which would ease some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program over time.
The deal was reached after two years of negotiations.
Certification that Iran is complying with the deal must be sent to Congress every 90 days. The first under the Trump administration noted that Tehran was in compliance.
In October 2017, Trump decertified the nuclear deal under U.S. law, saying the sanctions relief was disproportionate to Iran’s nuclear concessions. He contended the arrangement was contrary to America’s national security interests.
What has Trump said about it?
During the presidential campaign, Trump accused Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then his opponent, for making Iran a “world power” under the nuclear deal, which he called “the highest level of incompetence.”
“If you take a look at Iran from four, five years ago, they were dying,” Trump said during an event in September 2016. “They had sanctions, they were being choked to death and they were dying. They weren’t even going to be much of a threat.”
On Twitter, Trump has referred to the agreement as “a direct national security threat,” a “catastrophe that must be stopped,” the “dumbest & most dangerous misjudgments ever entered into in history of our country” and “the best deal of any kind in history” for Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned the U.S. would pay a “high cost” if it backs out of the agreement.
What have others said about the deal ahead of the deadline?
While Russia, China and many European nations, such as France and Germany, have said they remain committed to the deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for Trump to abandon the agreement earlier this month.
“I said it from the start — it has to be either fully fixed or fully nixed,” he said. “But if you do nothing to this deal, if you keep it as is, you will end up with Iran with a nuclear arsenal in a very short time.”
He also revealed new “dramatic” intelligence which he claimed shows Iran is “brazenly lying” about its nuclear program and shows the country is not complying with its end of the deal.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in April the Trump administration was still deciding whether the deal can be improved enough to persuade the president that it should be kept.
He described the agreement as “imperfect” during a Senate hearing and said “there are obviously aspects of the agreement that can be improved upon.”