Trump strikes blow at Iran nu­clear deal, irks al­lies

In ma­jor pol­icy shift, U.S. pres­i­dent re­fuses to cer­tify deal, threat­ens to scrap it

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - FRONT PAGE -

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nu­clear agree­ment Fri­day in de­fi­ance of other world pow­ers, choos­ing not to cer­tify that Tehran was com­ply­ing with the deal and warn­ing he might ul­ti­mately ter­mi­nate it.

He ac­cused Iran of “not liv­ing up to the spirit” of the nu­clear agree­ment and said his goal was to en­sure Tehran never ob­tained a nu­clear weapon. “We will not con­tinue down a path whose pre­dictable con­clu­sion is more vi­o­lence more ter­ror and the very real threat of Iran’s nu­clear break­out,” Trump said.

He sin­gled out Iran’s Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps for sanc­tions and de­liv­ered a blis­ter­ing cri­tique of Tehran, which he ac­cused of desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tions in Syria, Ye­men and Iraq.

In re­sponse, Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Hassan Rouhani said Fri­day on live tele­vi­sion that Tehran was com­mit­ted to the deal and ac­cused Trump of mak­ing base­less ac­cu­sa­tions.

“Tonight’s re­marks [by Trump] showed that the deal is much stronger than what he thought dur­ing the U.S. pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns,” Rouhani said.

“The U.S. is lone­lier than ever about the deal,” he added.

Trump’s hard-line re­marks drew praise from Saudi Ara­bia, the United Arab Emi­rates and Is­rael, Iran’s arch-foe, but was crit­i­cized by Euro­pean al­lies and Rus­sia.

Trump’s stance put him at odds with key U.S. al­lies, in­clud­ing Bri­tain, France and Ger­many who, along with Rus­sia and China, were the ma­jor pow­ers that ne­go­ti­ated the deal with Iran along­side the Euro­pean Union.

The lead­ers of Bri­tain, France and Ger­many is­sued a joint state­ment warn­ing the United States against tak­ing de­ci­sions that could harm the nu­clear deal such as reim­pos­ing sanc­tions.

The three lead­ers also said they shared U.S. con­cerns over Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram and re­gional desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and were ready to work with Wash­ing­ton to ad­dress those con­cerns.

In con­trast, Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­istry said there was no place in in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy for threat­en­ing and ag­gres­sive rhetoric, and said such meth­ods were doomed to fail in a state­ment is­sued af­ter Trump’s speech.

The min­istry said Trump’s de­ci­sion to de-cer­tify the deal would not have a di­rect im­pact on im­ple­men­ta­tion of the agree­ment but that it ran counter to its spirit.

There was no im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion from China, though Alexei Pushkov,

a pro-Krem­lin law­maker in the up­per house of the Rus­sian Par­lia­ment, said nei­ther Moscow nor Bei­jing backed Trump’s stance.

“Rus­sia of course does not sup­port the U.S. po­si­tion, nor does China. So Trump will be left in proud iso­la­tion in an at­tempt to im­prove his im­age among his own sup­port­ers,” Pushkov told Rus­sia’s state-run Ros­siya-24 TV sta­tion.

Euro­pean al­lies have warned of a split with the United States over the nu­clear agree­ment and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done un­der­mines U.S. cred­i­bil­ity abroad, es­pe­cially as in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors say Iran is in com­pli­ance with the ac­cord.

The chief of the U.N. atomic watch­dog re­it­er­ated that Iran was un­der the world’s “most ro­bust nu­clear ver­i­fi­ca­tion regime.”

“The nu­clear-re­lated com­mit­ments un­der­taken by Iran un­der the JCPOA are be­ing im­ple­mented,” Yukiya Amano, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency said, re­fer­ring to the deal by its for­mal name.

Saudi Ara­bia said lift­ing sanc­tions had al­lowed Tehran to de­velop its bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­gram, step up its sup­port for groups in­clud­ing Hezbol­lah and the Houthis in Ye­men, and at­tack global ship­ping lanes.

The Riyadh gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment it had sup­ported the nu­clear agree­ment, “but Iran took ad­van­tage of the eco­nomic gain from rais­ing sanc­tions and used it to con­tinue desta­bi­liz­ing the re­gion”.

U.S. Democrats ex­pressed skep­ti­cism at Trump’s de­ci­sion. Se­na­tor Ben Cardin said: “At a mo­ment when the United States and its al­lies face a nu­clear cri­sis with North Korea, the pres­i­dent has man­u­fac­tured a new cri­sis that will iso­late us from our al­lies and part­ners.”

While Trump did not pull the United States out of the agree­ment, he gave the U.S. Congress 60 days to de­cide whether to reim­pose eco­nomic sanc­tions on Tehran that were lifted un­der the pact.

If Congress reim­poses the sanc­tions, the United States would in ef­fect be in vi­o­la­tion of the terms of the nu­clear deal and it would likely fall apart. If law­mak­ers do noth­ing, the deal re­mains in place.

The pres­i­dent, who took of­fice in Jan­uary, had re­luc­tantly cer­ti­fied the agree­ment twice be­fore but has re­peat­edly blasted it as “the worst deal ever.” It was ne­go­ti­ated un­der his pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Trump warned that if “we are not able to reach a so­lu­tion work­ing with Congress and our al­lies, then the agree­ment will be ter­mi­nated.”

“We’ll see what hap­pens over the next short pe­riod of time and I can do that in­stan­ta­neously,” he told re­porters when asked why he did not choose to scrap the deal now.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion des­ig­nated the en­tire Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps un­der an ex­ec­u­tive or­der tar­get­ing ter­ror­ists. The ad­min­is­tra­tion stopped short of la­bel­ing the group a For­eign Ter­ror­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tion, a list main­tained by the State De­part­ment.

It had al­ready pre­vi­ously been sanc­tioned by the U.S. un­der other au­thor­i­ties, and the im­me­di­ate im­pact of Fri­day’s mea­sure is likely to be sym­bolic.

The U.S. mil­i­tary said Fri­day it was iden­ti­fy­ing new ar­eas where it could work with al­lies to put pres­sure on Iran in sup­port of Trump’s new strat­egy and was re­view­ing the po­si­tion­ing of U.S. forces.

But U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis said no changes in force pos­ture had been made yet, and Iran had not re­sponded to Trump’s an­nounce­ment with any provoca­tive acts so far.

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