US:

US pres­i­dent has de­scribed agree­ment in re­cent weeks as an ‘em­bar­rass­ment’ US with­draws from UN agency Unesco cit­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ‘anti-Is­rael bias’

The Irish Times - - Front Page - SUZANNE LYNCH Wash­ing­ton Cor­re­spon­dent

Don­ald Trump will an­nounce his long-awaited de­ci­sion on the Iran nu­clear deal to­day:

US pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will an­nounce his de­ci­sion on the Iran nu­clear deal to­day as the pres­i­dent comes un­der mount­ing pres­sure not to aban­don the 2015 agree­ment reached be­tween Iran and world pow­ers.

Mr Trump will ad­dress the na­tion at lunchtime, and is ex­pected to out­line his Mid­dle East strat­egy, in­clud­ing a de­ci­sion on whether Iran is in com­pli­ance with the terms of the agree­ment. The 2015 deal was aimed at re­strict­ing Iran’s nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties in ex­change for the eas­ing of sanc­tions on the Ira­nian econ­omy.

Un­der the terms of the agree­ment struck by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, Congress must be up­dated every 90 days on Iran’s com­pli­ance with the deal. But de­spite re­luc­tantly cer­ti­fy­ing Iran sev­eral times since his in­au­gu­ra­tion, Mr Trump has sug­gested in re­cent weeks that he is pre­par­ing to re­voke the agree­ment, de­scrib­ing the deal as an “em­bar­rass­ment” to the United States in his speech to the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly last month.

In a rare public ap­pear­ance yes­ter­day, White House chief-of-staff John Kelly said that the pres­i­dent was “deep in thought, to say the least, about the way ahead in Iran”, though he de­clined to clar­ify what de­ci­sion the pres­i­dent would make.

The prospect that the United States could un­der­mine a deal that the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion agreed, and which was un­der­pinned by a UN res­o­lu­tion, came as the US an­nounced its with­drawal from the UN agency Unesco.

The depart­ment of state an­nounced yes­ter­day it would with­draw from the UN body on De­cem­ber 31st and would re­main as an ob­server there­after, cit­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s anti-Is­rael bias and the need for re­form.

“This de­ci­sion was not taken lightly, and re­flects US con­cerns with mount­ing ar­rears at Unesco, the need for fun­da­men­tal re­form in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, and con­tin­u­ing anti-Is­rael bias at Unesco,” the depart­ment said in a state­ment.

The de­ci­sion is the lat­est move by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to dis­tance it­self from mul­ti­lat­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions. But it also marks the lat­est stage in a dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and Unesco.

In 2011 the United States can­celled its con­tri­bu­tion to the Paris-based agency to protest over Unesco’s de­ci­sion to ad­mit Pales­tine as a full mem­ber. Fur­ther con­tro­versy over Unesco’s stance on Is­rael erupted in 2015 when it des­ig­nated the holy site of He­bron in the West Bank as a Pales­tinian World Her­itage site.

Unesco’s di­rec­tor-gen­eral Irina Bokova, whose term is com­ing to an end, ex­pressed re­gret at the Amer­i­can with­drawal in a state­ment, stat­ing that Unesco’s work to ad­vance lit­er­acy and qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion is “shared by the Amer­i­can peo­ple”.

Mean­while, Mr Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der at a cer­e­mony in the White House which may al­low small busi­nesses and some in­di­vid­u­als to by­pass key as­pects of the Af­ford­able Care Act, the health­care sys­tem also known as Oba­macare.

The or­der, which will al­low the pur­chase of new cross-state health in­sur­ance plans as well as new short-term health in­sur­ance plans, rep­re­sents the most sig­nif­i­cant ef­fort yet by the ad­min­is­tra­tion to un­roll Oba­macare, and re­flects grow­ing frus­tra­tion on the part of the pres­i­dent with Congress’s fail­ure to re­peal and re­place Mr Obama’s sig­na­ture health­care pol­icy.

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The pres­i­dent is ‘deep in thought, to say the least, about the way ahead in Iran’

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