President Trump on Tuesday announced plans to leave the Iran nuclear deal, declaring the pact has failed to halt the country’s nuclear ambitions in perhaps the biggest foreign policy decision of his administration.
Speaking at the White House, Trump said: “I am announcing today the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”
Trump for months had left open whether he would move to scrap the pact, and his apparent decision to re-impose sanctions has rattled European rattles and leaves unclear how Tehran will respond.
But Trump scorched the deal in his Tuesday remarks, saying it put only weak limits on the regime's nuclear activity and still would allow Iran to pursue a nuclear weapon once key parts of the agreement lapse.
"This was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never ever been made," he said. “... The Iran deal is defective at its core.”
The Treasury Department said a restoration of some sanctions will go into effect after a 90-day countdown, with the rest kicking in after a 180-day wind-down period. Once sanctions are re-imposed, the U.S. effectively would be out of the deal.
“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction, that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful, nuclear energy program,” Trump said Tuesday.
“Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.”
- President Trump
The Treasury Department said Trump would move to reimpose all sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 deal, not just the ones facing an immediate deadline. If he follows through on a sweeping imposition of sanctions, the move threatens to topple the Iran nuclear agreement as a whole – and with it, his predecessor’s signature foreign policy achievement.
“In theory, the so-called Iran deal was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon that will only endanger the survival of the Iranian regime," Trump said. "In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and over time reach the brink of a nuclear breakout."
During his speech, Trump called Iran “the leading state sponsor of terror.”
“It exports dangerous missiles, fuels conflicts across the Middle East, and supports terrorist proxies and militias, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda,” he said.
In a Tuesday evening tweet, the president added: "The Iran Deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know what will happen. In just a short time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons...."
Democrats blasted Trump’s withdrawal, with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi calling it “a sad day for America’s global leadership.”
Former President Obama released a statement arguing the nuclear deal “is working” and “has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program,” saying that’s why Trump’s announcement “is so misguided.”
Trump started the day by warning former Secretary of State John Kerry not to meddle in the negotiations.
“John Kerry can’t get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it! Stay away from negotiations John, you are hurting your country!” Trump tweeted early Tuesday.
This was a reference to reports that Kerry was meeting with foreign officials in a bid to salvage the pact. Speaking at a summit Tuesday in Italy, Kerry did not back down, saying the Middle East is “safer with this agreement” and framing this juncture as a choice between peace and war.
Trump’s announcement comes ahead of a May 12 deadline to make a decision on sanctions.
It follows efforts by European allies to convince Trump to keep the deal, even with changes.
But Trump was unconvinced. Since the 2016 presidential campaign, he has railed against the agreement and its Obama administration negotiators.
The 2015 pact lifted most U.S. and international sanctions against the country, in exchange for Iran agreeing to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections – terms generally set for 10-15 years.
But Israel, Gulf Arab states and many congressional Republicans said the deal was a giveaway to Tehran that ultimately paves the path to a nuclear-armed Iran several years in the future.
“Perhaps the nuclear deal’s most unforgivable flaw is that its original architects chose to stand with and empower Iran’s mullahs over the Iranian people, whose opposition to their corrupt and criminal government continues to grow,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote in a Fox News op-ed urging Trump to abandon the pact and ratchet up sanctions.
But Trump’s decision could lead to retaliation from Iran in the near-term.
If the deal collapses, Iran could resume prohibited enrichment activities, while businesses and banks doing business with Iran would have to scramble to extricate themselves or run afoul of the U.S.
While Trump himself was tight-lipped about his decision in the run-up to the announcement, Iranian officials also were left guessing.
In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani sought to calm nerves. "It is possible that we will face some problems for two or three months, but we will pass through this," Rouhani said.
Rouhani earlier warned of “grave” consequences if Trump pulled back on the agreement.
Obama foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes, who played a key role in the deal, also tweeted that “Trump is blowing that up with no understanding of what's actually in the Deal, no plan for what comes next, and no support from our closest European allies, Russia or China.”
A factor leading to Tuesday’s decision may have been Israel’s public lobbying. A week ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to the U.S. president by making explosive allegations that new evidence proved Tehran had lied about its nuclear program and adherence to the pact.
But even Trump's secretary of state and the U.N. agency that monitors nuclear compliance have agreed that Iran, so far, has lived up to its side of the deal.
On Tuesday, Netanyahu said, "Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran."
Fox News’ John Roberts, Judson Berger and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
President Trump’s Remarks On Leaving The Iran Nuclear Deal
My fellow Americans,
Today, I want to update the world on our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror. It exports dangerous missiles, fuels conflicts across the Middle East, and supports terrorist proxies and militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Over the years, Iran and its proxies have bombed American Embassies and military installations, murdered hundreds of American service members, and kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured American citizens.
The Iranian regime has funded its long reign of chaos and terror by plundering the wealth of its own people.
No action taken by the regime has been more dangerous than its pursuit of nuclear weapons — and the means of delivering them.
In 2015, the previous administration joined with other nations in a deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program. This agreement was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or J.C.P.O.A.
In theory, the so-called “Iran deal” was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon that will only endanger the survival of the Iranian regime.
In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and — over time — reach the brink of a nuclear breakout.
The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity — and no limits at all on its other malign behavior, including its sinister activities in Syria, Yemen, and other places all around the world.
In other words, at the point when the United States 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 actual cash — a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States.
A constructive deal could easily have been struck at the time, but it wasn’t.
At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction: that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program.
Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. Last week, Israel published intelligence documents — long concealed by Iran — conclusively showing the Iranian regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.
The fact is, this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.
In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget has grown by almost 40 percent — while its economy is doing very badly. After the sanctions were lifted, the dictatorship used its new funds to build its nuclear-capable missiles, support terrorism, and cause havoc throughout the Middle East and beyond.
The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can 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. Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.
Making matters worse, the deal’s inspection provisions lack adequate mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating and don’t even have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations, including military facilities. Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.
Finally, the deal does nothing to constrain Iran’s destabilizing activities, including its support for terrorism.
Since the agreement, Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen. In light of these glaring flaws, I announced last October that the Iran deal must either be renegotiated or terminated.
Three months later, on January 12th, I repeated these conditions. I made clear that if the deal could not be fixed, the United States would no longer be a party to the agreement.
Over the past few months, we have engaged extensively with our allies and partners around the world, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. We have also consulted with our friends from across the Middle East. We are unified in our understanding of the threat and in our conviction that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon.
After these consultations, it is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.
Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
In a few moments, I will sign a presidential memorandum to begin reinstating U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.
America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail. 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.
Today’s action sends a critical message. The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them. In fact, at this very moment, Secretary Pompeo is on his way to North Korea in preparation for my upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un. Plans are being made, relationships are building. Hopefully, a deal will happen, and with the help of China, South Korea, and Japan, a future of great prosperity and security can be achieved for everyone.
As we exit the Iran deal, we will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. This will include efforts to eliminate the threat of Iran’s ballistic missile program, to stop its terrorist activities worldwide, and to block its menacing activity across the Middle East.
In the meantime, powerful sanction also go into full effect. If the regime continues its its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before. Finally, I want to deliver a message to the long-suffering people of Iran.
The people of America stand with you.
It has now been almost 40 years since this dictatorship seized power and took a proud nation hostage. Most of Iran’s 80 million citizens have sadly never known an Iran that prospered in peace with its neighbors and commanded the admiration of the world.
But the future of Iran belongs to its people. They are the rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land, and they deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history and glory to God.
Iran’s leaders will naturally say that they refuse to negotiate a new deal. They refuse, and that’s fine. I’d probably say the same thing if I was in their position. But the fact is, they are going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people.
When they do, I am ready, willing, and able. Great things can happen for Iran. And great things can happen for the peace and stability that we all want in the Middle East. There has been enough suffering, death, and destruction. Let it end now. Thank you. God bless you. Thank you.