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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 28 May 2018

Iran nuclear deal: Trump pulls out US from landmark agreement

His decision was made in the face of Iranian, European and even Republican opposition

US President Donald Trump announces his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. Saul Loeb / AFP Photo
US President Donald Trump announces his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2018. Saul Loeb / AFP Photo

US President Donald Trump has decided to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and renew economic sanctions on the country, fulfilling a campaign pledge and abandoning the 2015 accord in a move that Washington's closest allies say risks a new and dangerous confrontation with the Islamic Republic.

After weeks of speculation about whether or not he would uphold the landmark agreement signed between Tehran and world powers, Mr Trump announced the withdrawal from the “defective” pact despite Britain, France and Germany lobbying him to remain in the deal. He failed to present an alternative plan to contain Tehran's atomic activities, which were stalled by the 2015 agreement.

"It has become clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement," he said in a speech at the White House.

"Therefore I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal."

He revealed that the US will institute the “highest level” of sanctions on Iran, indicating that all of those lifted under the 2015 pact would be reinstated.

“Powerful sanctions will go into full effect,” he continued, without elaborating.

The American leader’s announcement on Tuesday came ahead of a self-imposed May 12 deadline to decide whether to remain in the deal that traded the lifting of crippling international sanctions on the Iranian economy for restrictions, such as thorough inspections, on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Mr Trump pointed to the evidence provided by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week of an "Atomic Archive", an alleged “secret” Iranian nuclear weapons programme that he said breached the agreement.

He also accused Iran of supporting "terrorist proxies and militias" in what he called a "campaign of terror" across the Middle East.

"This disastrous deal gave the regime billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash," he said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to Mr Trump's decision in a televised broadcast, saying that for the time being the country would remain in the deal. He went on to say he would speak to the European Union, Russia and China before making a further decision on what Iran would do, hinting that the options of returning to industrial levels of uranium enrichment remained on the table.

Iran must now decide how to react to the deal, by either joining Mr Trump in leaving the agreement or trying to salvage what remains of it. Earlier in the day, Mr Rouhani said Iran continued to seek “engagement with the world”.

But other officials in Tehran warned the country would not remain passive after Mr Trump left the deal. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani accused the US of breaching its commitment to the agreement, while Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri said it would be “naive” for the country’s officials to negotiate with the US again.

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Read more:

Europe ponders next move as Trump rejects ‘defective’ Iran deal

UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain welcome Trump’s exit from Iran nuclear deal

Comment: The only country which stands to lose from a nuclear pull-out is the US

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Mr Trump said the Iranians would someday "want to make a new and lasting deal" and that "when they do, I am ready, willing and able".

The now-damaged deal, which his predecessor Barack Obama agreed with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, not only risks Iran restarting its bid for a nuclear weapon and wider conflict in the Middle East, but of also opening a transatlantic rift with European allies not seen since the Iraq War.

Ahead of his decision, Mr Trump called French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese President Xi Jinping. US Vice President Mike Pence briefed congressional members in Washington while the EU restated its full support for the agreement in last-minute talks between the bloc and Iran in Brussels.

Lobbying by Mr Macron and other European officials failed to change the mind of the US leader who has been a critic of the “very badly negotiated” agreement since his days as a presidential candidate.

The UAE announce that it backed the US decision, with the foreign ministry urging the international community “to respond positively to President Trump’s position to rid the Middle East of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction”, according to WAM news agency.

Saudi Arabia and Israel both expressed support for Mr Trump's decision to withdraw from the deal.

Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, tweeted that: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia fully supports the measures taken by @POTUS with regards to the JCPOA. we always had reservations with regards to sunset clauses, ballistic missiles program, and Iran’s support for terrorism in the region."

Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "Thank you President Trump for your bold decision and your commitment to prevent Iran from ever getting nuclear weapons."

The French leader said he would "work collectively" for a new, "broader" deal with Iran.

In a joint statement, German Chancellor Angela Merkal and British Prime Minister emphasised their countries' "continuing commitment to the JCPoA. This agreement remains important for our shared security". They urged "the US to do everything possible to preserve the gains for nuclear non-proliferation brought about by the JCPoA" and also cautioned Iran to "show restraint in response to the decision by the US", saying "it must continue to meet its own obligations under the deal."

Mr Trump's decision was made in the face of not only Iranian and European opposition, but resistance at home too. Polls showed public domestic opinion was in favour of remaining part of the deal, while Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said the US should fix flaws in the agreement, but not leave it.

Nuclear inspectors have also said they have found no Iranian violations in the two years since the agreement came into force.

Mr Trump’s decision was set against a backdrop of many fiery exchanges between his administration and the Iranian regime about the validity of the agreement.

The US does not accuse Iran of breaching the deal, rather that it provided Iran with lucrative sums of money that it can use to boost its ballistic missile arsenal and funding of proxy groups.

The key stumbling block in the deal for Mr Trump is the “sunset clause” that lifts limits on Iran’s nuclear programme exactly 10 years after it was implemented.