U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday that he would decertify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal Trump believes the “radical regime” of Iran has committed multiple violations of the agreement as he kicked a decision over whether to restore sanctions back to Congress.
Trump’s decertification announcement gives Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the agreement. That step would increase tension with Tehran as well as put Washington at odds with all other signatories such as Germany, Russia, China, Britain, France and the European Union.
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Trump said during a speech at the White House: “I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification. We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakthrough. Iran and Hezbollah twice attacked US embassies and killed hundreds of Americans… Iranian groups in Iraq and Afghanistan are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans … Iran is the number one country in supporting terrorism and supports Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist organizations.”
Trump announced the major shift in US policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.
He accused Tehran of “not living up to the spirit” of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.
“We will work with our allies against the actions that Iran is taking to destabilize the Middle East in the form of encouraging terrorist organizations, and I have ordered sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and its people and anyone identified with it, and I encourage our allies to join us to prevent Iran from continuing to destabilize the region. “Since the signing of the agreement, the Islamic Republic has continued to mature, and it has been facilitated and continues to develop its missile program.”
A moment before the speech, the Treasury Department announced that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards would be added to the list of bodies on which sanctions would be imposed and if and when. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before Trump’s speech and updated him on developments. The Prime Minister’s Bureau said that Israel had been briefed before the speech on what Trump was about to say.
Responding to Trump, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday on live television that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations.
European allies have warned of a split with the United States over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines US credibility abroad, especially as international inspectors say Iran is in compliance with the accord.
US Democrats expressed skepticism at Trump’s decision. Senator Ben Cardin said: “At a moment when the United States and its allies face a nuclear crisis with North Korea, the President has manufactured a new crisis that will isolate us from our allies and partners.”
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.
If Congress reimposes the sanctions, the United States would in effect be in violation of the terms of the nuclear deal and it would likely fall apart. If lawmakers do nothing, the deal remains in place.
Congress is more likely to take up legislation proposed by two Republican Senators that would set new restrictions on Iran, including reimposing US nuclear sanctions if Tehran were deemed to be within one year of developing a nuclear weapon.
Trump directed US intelligence agencies to probe whether Iran might be working with North Korea on its weapons programs.
The president, who took office in January, had reluctantly certified the agreement twice before but has repeatedly blasted it as “the worst deal ever.” It was negotiated under his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.
Trump warned that if “we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.”
“We’ll see what happens over the next short period of time and I can do that instantaneously,” he told reporters when asked why he did not choose to scrap the deal now.
Trump also gave the US Treasury Department authority to impose economic sanctions against people in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps or entities owned by it in response to what Washington calls its efforts to destabilize and undermine Iran’s opponents in the Middle East.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that rather than reimposing sanctions, Trump wants the Republican-controlled Congress to fix what he considers flaws in the agreement.
Lawmakers would do this by amending the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act law to strengthen nuclear inspections, cover Iran’s ballistic missile program and eliminate the deal’s “sunset clause” under which some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over time.
By Ynet News, Reuters