President Trump announced Tuesday that he will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, defying European allies and escalating tensions with an Iranian regime that vowed not to return to the negotiating table should the U.S. abandon the Obama-era nonproliferation agreement.
“It is clear to me we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb, under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement..the Iran deal is defective at its core,” Trump said during his announcement from the White House.
“If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before,” he added.
The announcement marks the beginning of a three to six month day delay period, after which the U.S. will reimpose the harsh economic sanctions that were lifted in 2015 in exchange for the regime’s commitment to cease developing its nuclear program for ten years. Trump has repeatedly maligned the 2015 deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, calling it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
Trump and his newly-minted national security advisor John Bolton believe the agreement does not grant international inspectors enough access to verify Iranian compliance and serves only to provide Iran a temporary respite from crippling economic sanctions until the ten-year deadline is reached, at which point the regime will be free to continue building its nuclear program.
The decision to reimplement all of the sanctions lifted under the agreement, not just the ones that were set to expire in the coming days, represents the most aggressive approach on offer — one that will almost certainly scuttle the deal for its remaining five signatories: France, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and Germany.
The White House released a list of demands following the announcement that will serve as a prerequisite to renegotiation. In addition to requiring that Iran abandon all efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, they must also cease developing inter-continental ballistic missiles, end support for terrorist organizations, and refrain from further escalating the conflict in Yemen, among other requests.
European allies, including French president Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, had traveled to Washington in recent weeks to try and convince Trump to abandon his hostility to the deal, but their visits proved ineffective.
Macron has been particularly pessimistic about the geopolitical implications of U.S. withdrawal from the deal, to which France is also a signatory.
“That would mean opening Pandora’s box, it could mean war,” Macron told Der Spiegel over the weekend. “I don’t believe that Donald Trump wants war.”
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also predicted a bleak future should the U.S. withdraw, telling reporters Tuesday that such such a move would result in “inevitable harmful consequences.”