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Trump strikes blow at Iran deal in policy shift – Iran angry

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U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran nuclear deal in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 13, 2017. REUTERS

WASHINGTON, Oct 14, (Agencies): President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Friday, defying both US allies and adversaries by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord even though international inspectors say it is. Warning that he might ultimately terminate the agreement, Trump’s move was a major change in US foreign policy at a time when his administration is also in a crisis with North Korea over that country’s nuclear ambitions.

It was the second time in two days that Trump took aim at the legacy of his predecessor Barack Obama after signing an executive order on Thursday to weaken the Democratic former president’s signature healthcare reform. Hailed by Obama as key to stopping Iran from building a nuclear bomb, the deal was also signed by China, France, Russia, Britain, Germany and the European Union. But Trump says it was too lenient on Tehran and effectively left the fate of the deal up to the US Congress which might try to modify it or bring back US sanctions previously imposed on Iran. “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.

European allies have warned of a split with Washington over the nuclear agreement and say that putting it in limbo as Trump has done undermines US credibility abroad. Trump’s “America First” approach to international agreements has also led him to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Friday that Tehran was committed to the deal and accused Trump of making baseless accusations. “The Iranian nation has not and will never bow to any foreign pressure,” he said. “Iran and the deal are stronger than ever.” The chief of the UN atomic watchdog reiterated that Iran was under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime” and that Tehran is complying with the deal. “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.

Iranians respond
Iranians responded with anger and mockery on Saturday to the bellicose criticism of their government by Trump who threatened to tear up the landmark nuclear deal. Trump’s use of the phrase “Arabian Gulf” rather than “Persian Gulf” particularly hit a nerve in a country with a fierce nationalistic streak. “Everyone knew Trump’s friendship was for sale to the highest bidder. We now know that his geography is too,” wrote Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Twitter, referring to the US alliance with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia. In his White House speech on Friday, Trump reeled off a list of grievances committed by the “Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.” He threatened to “terminate” the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and six world powers unless Congress passed stringent new sanctions. But as Iranians headed to their offices on Saturday — the first day of the work week in Iran — the reaction was often one of bemusement.

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