Trump to ‘de­cer­tify’ nu­clear deal, break­ing with al­lies

U-turn on Iran pol­icy

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON (AFP) — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will un­veil a more ag­gres­sive strat­egy to check Iran’s grow­ing might Fri­day, with­draw­ing pres­i­den­tial back­ing for a land­mark nu­clear deal and tar­get­ing the coun­try’s mis­sile pro­gram and mili­tia prox­ies. Dur­ing a White House speech at 12:45 p.m. (1645 GMT), Trump is ex­pected to de­clare a 2015 deal, which curbed Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram in re­turn for mas­sive sanc­tions re­lief, is no longer in the U.S. na­tional in­ter­est.

Of­fi­cials say he will not kill the deal out­right, or des­ig­nate Iran’s pow­er­ful Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion — a move that would al­most cer­tainly bring re­tal­ia­tory ac­tion. In­stead he will leave U.S. law­mak­ers to de­cide whether they want to kick away one of the ac­cords foun­da­tional pil­lars by “snap­ping back” sanc­tions against Iran.

Many law­mak­ers are wait­ing to see how Trump presents the choice, with no clear con­sen­sus even among Repub­li­cans on whether to tor­pedo the agree­ment. In a state­ment to AFP, lead­ing Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Marco Ru­bio de­scribed the ac­cord as “fa­tally-flawed” and said he was open to leg­is­la­tion that would “sub­stan­tially im­prove Amer­ica’s abil­ity to counter Iran’s nu­clear, ter­ror­ism, mil­i­tancy and re­gional threats.”

While Trump’s de­ci­sion is largely rhetor­i­cal — de­signed to meet a key cam­paign pledge — it risks un­pick­ing years of care­ful diplo­macy and in­creas­ing Mid­dle East ten­sions.

The agree­ment was signed be­tween Iran and six world pow­ers — Bri­tain, China, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and the U.S. — at talks co­or­di­nated by the Euro­pean Union.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son spent much of the week on the tele­phone, talk­ing through a de­ci­sion that is deeply un­pop­u­lar with al­lies.

U.N. nu­clear in­spec­tors say Iran is meet­ing the tech­ni­cal re­quire­ments of its side of the bar­gain, dra­mat­i­cally cur­tail­ing its nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for sanc­tions re­lief.

So, while U.S. of­fi­cials still in­sist that “Amer­ica First” does not mean “Amer­ica Alone,” on this is­sue they are starkly iso­lated. The other sig­na­to­ries all back the deal.

“This is the worst deal. We got noth­ing,” Trump thun­dered to Fox News on Wed­nes­day. “We did it out of weak­ness when ac­tu­ally, we have great strength.”

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani lashed out at U.S. coun­ter­part say­ing he was op­pos­ing “the whole world” by try­ing to aban­don a land­mark nu­clear agree­ment.

“It will be ab­so­lutely clear which is the law­less gov­ern­ment. It will be clear which coun­try is re­spected by the na­tions of the world and global pub­lic opin­ion,” he added. Trump, whose ad­dress to this year’s U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly was a hymn to na­tional sovereignty, has been rail­ing against the Iran deal since be­fore he was elected.

Al­lies plead­ing

In of­fice, he has chafed at be­ing re­quired un­der U.S. law to re-cer­tify Iran’s com­pli­ance with the ac­cord ev­ery 90 days, declar­ing that Tehran has bro­ken it “in spirit.”

Now, as he pre­pares to roll out the broader U.S. strat­egy to com­bat Iran’s ex­pand­ing power in the Mid­dle East, he feels the time has come to turn his back on the deal.

Right up un­til the last minute, Amer­ica’s clos­est al­lies have urged Trump to think again.

Af­ter his na­tion­al­ist U.N. speech, EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini warned that the deal “doesn’t be­long to one coun­try... it be­longs to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.”

U.S. al­lies have not been con­vinced by the ar­gu­ment that the deal fell short be­cause it left Iran free to de­velop bal­lis­tic mis­siles and spon­sor proxy mili­tias in its re­gion.

“Mix­ing ev­ery­thing means risk­ing ev­ery­thing,” a French diplo­matic source told AFP. “The ex­is­ten­tial threat is the bomb. The nu­clear deal is not meant to solve Le­banon’s prob­lems.”

Europe fears not only that Iran will re­sume the quest for the bomb but that the U.S. is re­lin­quish­ing its lead­er­ship role in a sta­ble, rules-based in­ter­na­tional sys­tem.

On Tues­day, British Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May called the White House to im­press upon it her gov­ern­ment’s “strong com­mit­ment to the deal along­side our Euro­pean part­ners.” In par­al­lel, her for­eign min­is­ter, Boris John­son, told his U.S. coun­ter­part Tiller­son “that the nu­clear deal was an his­toric achieve­ment.”

“It was the cul­mi­na­tion of 13 years of painstak­ing diplo­macy and has in­creased se­cu­rity, both in the re­gion and in the U.K.,” he ar­gued.

But the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion barely ac­knowl­edged the calls, and Euro­pean diplo­mats in Wash­ing­ton pri­vately com­plain that their mes­sage is not get­ting through.

One Western diplo­mat said that once Trump “de­cer­ti­fies” the deal their ef­forts will move to Congress, where they will urge U.S. law­mak­ers not to re-im­pose sanc­tions.

They will find some sym­pa­thetic ears in Congress but this won’t move Trump. His most se­nior for­eign pol­icy ad­vis­ers have also urged him to back the deal, to no avail.


U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks be­fore sign­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der on health in­sur­ance in the Roo­sevelt Room of the White House in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Thurs­day.

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