Donald Trump

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

European Leaders Weigh In After Trump Withdraws US From Iran Deal, Obama Calls It 'Serious Mistake'

May 08, 2018 - 5:42 pm
Categories: 

WASHINGTON (1010 WINS/AP) --  President Donald Trump followed through on his campaign threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, calling the deal "defective at its core."

The agreement, struck in 2015 by the United States, other world powers and Iran, lifted most U.S. and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.

"The fact is this was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," Trump said during a televised address at the White House. "At the point when the U.S. had maximum leverage this disastrous deal gave this regime -- and it's a regime of great terror -- many billions of dollars."

Trump on Tuesday signed a presidential memorandum withdrawing from the 2015 agreement and said he is planning to reinstall sanctions on the Iranian regime. He said that he will be reinstituting the highest level of sanctions and warns any country not to help the Iranian government.

"America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail," Trump said. "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."

Trump's decision means Iran's government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what's left of the deal. Iran has offered conflicting statements about what it may do — and the answer may depend on exactly how Trump exits the agreement.

One official briefed on the decision 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.

Former President Barack Obama is calling President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran deal a "serious mistake" that will erode America's global credibility.

Obama's administration brokered the deal. He says Tuesday that Trump's decision to withdraw is "misguided," especially because Iran has been complying.

Obama also warned: "The consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America's credibility, and puts us at odds with the world's major powers."

Obama says that without the deal, the U.S. "could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East."

He says the deal remains a model for what diplomacy can accomplish, including when it comes to North Korea.

Supporters of trying to fix the agreement had hoped Trump would choose a piecemeal approach that could leave more room for him to reverse himself and stay in if he could secure the additional restrictions on Iran that European nations have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Trump. Still, the administration planned to allow a grace period of at least three months and possibly up to six months so that businesses and governments can wind down operations that would violate the reimposed U.S. sanctions, officials said.

As administration officials briefed congressional leaders about Trump's plans Tuesday, they emphasized that just as with a major Asia trade deal and the Paris climate pact that Trump has abandoned, he remains open to renegotiating a better deal, one person briefed on the talks said.

Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping about his decision Tuesday. The British foreign secretary traveled to Washington this week to make a last-minute pitch to the U.S. to remain in the deal, according to a senior British diplomat. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the British objective will remain to uphold and maintain the deal.

Hours before the announcement, European countries met to underline their support for the agreement. Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany met in Brussels with Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Abbas Araghchi.

If the deal collapses, Iran would be free to 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. American officials were dusting off plans for how to sell a pullout to the public and explain its complex financial ramifications.

In Iran, many were deeply concerned about how Trump's decision could affect the already struggling economy. In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani sought to calm nerves, smiling as he appeared at a petroleum expo. He didn't name Trump directly, but emphasized that Iran continued to seek "engagement with the world."

"It is possible that we will face some problems for two or three months, but we will pass through this," Rouhani said.

Trump says "great things" can happen for the Iranian people following his announcement. Trump predicted that Iranians would someday "want to make a new and lasting deal" and that "when they do, I am ready, willing and able." He added that a new deal could lead to the "peace and stability we all want in the Middle East."

Under the most likely scenario, Trump would allow sanctions on Iran's central bank — intended to target oil exports — to kick back in, rather than waiving them once again on Saturday, the next deadline for renewal, said individuals briefed on Trump's deliberations. Then the administration would give those who are doing business with Iran a six-month period to wind down business and avoid breaching those sanctions.

Even Trump's secretary of state and the U.N. agency that monitors nuclear compliance agree that Iran, so far, has lived up to its side of the deal. But the deal's critics, such as Israel, the Gulf Arab states and many Republicans, say it's a giveaway to Tehran that ultimately paves the path to a nuclear-armed Iran several years in the future.

Iran, for its part, has been coy in predicting its response to a Trump withdrawal. For weeks, Iran's foreign minister had been saying that a re-imposition of U.S. sanctions would render the deal null and void, leaving Tehran little choice but to abandon it as well. But on Monday, Rouhani said Iran could stick with it if the European Union, whose economies do far more business with Iran than the U.S., offers guarantees that Iran would keep benefiting.

The leaders of Britain, Germany and France are urging the United States to refrain from taking action that prevents other signatories to the Iran nuclear deal from continuing to implement it.

In a joint statement Tuesday after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron urged Iran to "show restraint" and continue fulfilling its own obligations such as cooperating with inspection requirements.

They called on Washington to "ensure that the structures of the (deal) can remain intact, and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal."

Trump has said "any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States."

(© 2018 1010 WINS. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)