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United States

Trump decertifies and threatens to cancel Iran nuclear deal

Iran and EU defend nuclear deal and asserts Trump has no power to terminate the international deal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 October, 2017, 10:50pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 October, 2017, 5:29am

US President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it.

Trump announced the major shift in US policy in a speech that detailed a more confrontational approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

Trump said in an address at the White House that his goal is to ensure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said.

While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agreement, aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, he gave the US Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the pact.

No president can revoke an international deal
Iranian President Hassan Rowhani

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani lashed out at his US counterpart saying he was opposing “the whole world” by trying to abandon the landmark nuclear agreement.

“It will be absolutely clear which is the lawless government. It will be clear which country is respected by the nations of the world and global public opinion,” he added.

“No president can revoke an international deal … Iran will continue to respect it as long as it serves our interests,” said Rowhani in a live television address, adding that Trump’s speech was full of “insults and fake accusations” against Iranians.

“He has not studied international law. Can a president annul a multilateral international treaty on his own?” Rowhani said.

“Apparently he doesn’t know that this agreement is not a bilateral agreement solely between Iran and the United States.”

The leaders of Britain, France and Germany on Friday said they remain committed to the international nuclear deal with Iran after US President Donald Trump refused to certify the agreement.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they “stand committed to its full implementation by all sides,” according to a joint statement released by May’s Downing Street office.

He says it’s the ‘worst deal ever’, but Trump faces heavy pressure to soften stance on Iran nuclear pact

The leaders said they “take note of President Trump’s decision” not to recertify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) to the US Congress and were “concerned by the possible implications.”

“The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes,” they added.

“The president of the United States has many powers,” said European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini at a Brussels news conference minutes after Trump announced he might terminate the deal. “Not this one.”

Trump had repeatedly pledged to overturn one of his predecessor Barack Obama’s crowning foreign policy achievements, deriding it as “the worst deal” and one agreed to out of “weakness”.

The agreement was signed between Iran and six world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US – at talks coordinated by the European Union.

It stalled Iran’s nuclear programme and marginally thawed relations between Iran and what Tehran dubs the “Great Satan”.

But opponents, and even some supporters, say it also prevented efforts to challenge Iranian influence across the Middle East.

Russia said on Friday that Trump’s announcement “once again underlines the inadmissibility of using aggressive and threatening rhetoric in international relations,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement

“It is a hangover from the past, which does not correspond to modern norms of civilised dealings between countries,” the statement said. “We viewed with regret the decision of the US President not to confirm to Congress that Iran is fulfilling in good faith” the nuclear deal.

Those who supported Trump include Saudi Arabia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump.

“I congratulate President Trump for his courageous decision today of boldly confronting Iran’s terrorist regime,” said Netanyahu.

“The kingdom backs and welcomes the firm strategy on Iran and its aggressive policy that was announced by US President Donald Trump,” the official Saudi Press Agency said in a statement.

Trump has slammed the deal since he was a presidential candidate, and told aides earlier this year he will not recertify it.

Iran defies Washington and tests missile after Trump’s UN speech

But since coming to office, he has faced intense lobbying from international allies and his own national security team, who argued it should remain in place.

Both the US government and UN nuclear inspectors say Iran is meeting the technical requirements of its side of the bargain, dramatically curtailing its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

The outcome “probably reflects more some of the divisions and debates within the administration”, said former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross.

Still, Trump’s tough-guy approach could yet risk undoing years of careful diplomacy and increasing Middle East tensions.

Congress must now decide whether to end the nuclear accord by “snapping back” sanctions, which Iran demanded be lifted in exchange for limiting uranium enrichment.

A full snap back seems unlikely, but many lawmakers are waiting to see how Trump presents the choice before deciding whether to keep or torpedo the agreement.

Leading Republican Senator Marco Rubio has called for Congress to respond with legislation that has “trigger points” for new sanctions.

“I support @POTUS decision to decertify. Now Congress must either fix #IranDeal by creating triggers for sanctions or deal should end,” he tweeted.

Much now rests on whether these sanctions would be seen by Iran and partners as a breach of US commitments under the nuclear deal.

“#IranDeal is only on nukes. It can’t be that it requires us to ignore #Iran sponsorship of terror or advances in missiles,” said Rubio.

Right up until the last minute, the other signatories to the deal have urged Washington not to let it fall apart.

“We believe this deal is important to ensuring the international nuclear non-proliferation regime and regional peace and stability. We hope all parties can continue to preserve and implement this deal,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The Kremlin warned that ditching the agreement could “unequivocally damage the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world”.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spent much of the week on the telephone, talking through a decision that is deeply unpopular with allies.

Europe fears not only that Iran will resume the quest for the bomb but that the US is relinquishing its leadership role in a stable, rules-based international system.

Reuters , Agence France-Presse