Trump announces plan to pull out of Iran nuclear deal despite pleas from European leaders
WASHINGTON - The United States "will withdraw" from the international nuclear deal with Iran and will reinstate economic sanctions against Tehran, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday.
Trump's decision, announced at the White House, follows the failure of last-ditch efforts by Britain, France and Germany to convince him that his concerns about "flaws" in the accord could be addressed without violating its terms or ending it altogether.
"We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement," Trump said in remarks at the White House.
He called the agreement "a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and all citizens of the United States."
The action makes good on Trump's campaign pledge to undo an accord negotiated under his predecessor, President Barack Obama. Obama considered the agreement his signature foreign policy accomplishment, calling it the best way to head off the near-term threat of a nuclear armed Iran and a potential opening toward better relations with Tehran after more than three decades of enmity.
In his remarks Tuesday, Trump said the deal did no such thing.
"At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction," he said.
Trump said Iran was lying throughout negotiations for the international deal, and cited secret Iranian documents revealed last week by Israel, that showed the Iranian regime had concealed a nuclear weapons program in the 1990s.
"The United States no longer makes empty threats," he said referencing his past promises to pull out of the deal.
Vice President Mike Pence briefed members of Congress about the decision Tuesday, and Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, who has served as an emissary for European allies that want the United States to remain in the agreement.
It was not immediately clear whether Trump will immediately reinstate all sanctions or just a large and significant set of banking-related penalties that are due for review by Saturday. Another set is due for review in July, and Macron had hoped to use this period to continue efforts to negotiate a U.S.-European agreement.
A congressional official said Pence had told lawmakers the United States will no longer participate in the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The United States will restore sanctions with 90- and 180-day wind-down periods for various aspects, the official said.
Pence did not speak to reporters.
A decision to immediately reinstate all nuclear-related sanctions would be the most extreme step Trump could take now. People familiar with the decision said Trump remains open to the possibility of a supplemental agreement to "fix" the deal, but prospects for that approach appeared dim.
The three European allies have vowed to remain in the agreement and while the deal itself contains no provisions for withdrawal, Iran has threatened to reactivate suspended elements of its nuclear program if the United States reneges on any of its obligations under the pact's terms.
Trump, who criticized the Iran deal throughout his presidential campaign, said in January that the United States would "withdraw" unless the agreement was rewritten to address his concerns.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., a sometime Trump critic, warned Tuesday that the ramifications of a U.S. withdrawal could reach beyond the Middle East.
"The agreement obviously had problems it didn't address, Iran's malign behavior or ballistic missiles. But after you're in it and Iran has already realized the benefits of it ... to now allow them to get out of their obligations on the nuclear side would be foolhardy, in my view," Flake told reporters. "And it also says more about our willingness to work with our allies. We're having enough problems around the world in terms of our reliability, whether it's trade or commercial engagements or security arrangements. To add this now, at this point, would not be good for us, particularly the knock-on effects on other arrangements, perhaps with North Korea."
Authors information: Anne Gearan is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, with a focus on foreign policy and national security. Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for The Post. The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim, Philip Rucker, John Hudson and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.