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US exits N-deal, reinstates sanctions


US President Donald Trump displays a presidential memorandum after announcing his intent to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. Photo: Reuters

WASHINGTON, May 8, (Agencies): President Donald Trump defied the pleas of his European allies and pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, vowing to reimpose crippling sanctions on Tehran and warning that Iranians deserve a better government. His decision itself came as little surprise — the US leader has long scorned what he called the “disastrous” 2015 accord — but his suggestion that the regime must change underlined the risks of a dangerous new escalation in the Middle East.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised that Washington will work with its friends to build a new agreement to curtail Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons — but there was no disguising that Trump’s decision marked a stark diplomatic defeat for Europe, whose leaders had begged him to think again.

“I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump declared in a White House address, branding the landmark 2015 accord that was endorsed by Britain, China, Germany, Russia, France and Barack Obama’s previous US administration “defective at its core.” Trump — who enjoys close ties with Iran’s foes Saudi Arabia and Israel — said he had consulted America’s friends in the Middle East and concluded “that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement.”

“America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail,” Trump vowed. “We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction and we will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth.”

Trump’s hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton said that European firms would have a “wind down” period to cancel any investments made in Iran under the terms of the accord, after the world agreed to give Tehran sanctions relief in return for it scaling back its enrichment program and placing its nuclear industry under international inspection. But there was no disguising the dismay in European capitals, whose diplomats see the deal as the best way of keeping tabs on Iran’s ambitions while heading off the risk of a destabilizing new arms race in the Middle East, where tensions are already soaring between Tehran and both Israel and the Gulf monarchies. “France, Germany, and the UK regret the US decision to leave the JCPOA (Iran deal). The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake,” France’s President Emmanuel Macron wrote.

Work collectively
“We will work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post- 2025 period, ballistic activity, and stability in the Middle- East, notably Syria, Yemen, and Iraq,” he added.

The European Union’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini, who helped oversee the talks with Iran that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, insisted the accord “is delivering on its goal which is guaranteeing that Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons.” And she added: “the European Union is determined to preserve it.” In contrast, Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who last week released a trove of intelligence on a pre-2003 Iranian plan to develop a nuclear weapon which Trump cited approvingly in his speech, was overjoyed.

“Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal,” Netanyahu said, in a televised address, even as his country opened bomb shelters and put the military on high alert in case of attack from the Iranian forces deployed in Syria in defense of Bashar al- Assad’s regime. Saudi Arabian state media said the kingdom “supports and welcomes” Trump’s decision.

Psychological warfare
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani — who some deal supporters see as a reforming moderate who will be undermined by any collapse in the deal — was furious, accusing Trump of “psychological warfare” and vowing to take the matter up with the agreement’s other signatories, including Washington’s rivals Moscow and Beijing. Rouhani said he’d send his foreign minister to negotiate with countries remaining in the nuclear deal after Trump’s decision to pull America from the deal, warning he otherwise would restart enriching uranium “in the next weeks.”

Rouhani’s speech, carried live by state television, marked a doubling-down for the cleric who has seen his signature foreign policy achievement threatened by Trump for years. However, he stressed that the deal could survive without the US. “If at the end of this short period, we’ve conclude that we are able to achieve our demands in the deal, the deal will survive,” Rouhani said. Iranian state television did not broadcast Trump’s speech live, but carried his remarks in the crawl at the bottom of the screen and later recounted some of them.

Earlier on Tuesday, Rouhani stressed Iran wants to keep “working with the world and constructive engagement with the world.” That appeared to be a nod to Europe, which has struck a series of business deals with Iran since the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Iran likely hopes the European Union will pass laws to protect European firms from any potential U.S. sanctions.

Trump and the United States also came under fire from Iran’s first vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, a popular reformist politician who has been suggested as a possible presidential contender in Iran’s 2021 election. “Today, the biggest power in the world is yelling that it does not accept it (the deal),” Jahangiri said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“It’s up to them what to do with the deal, but (from now on) naive individuals would accept to enter talks with such a country.” “We are ready and have a plan for managing the country under any circumstance,” he added. Turkey will continue its trade with Iran as much as possible and will not be answerable to anyone else, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said on Tuesday, as Trump said the United States was withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

“From now on, we will carry out our trade with Iran, within the possible framework, until the end, and we will not give account to anyone for this,” Zeybekci said in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk. Meanwhile, former Obama administration officials warned that the decision puts the US on a collision course with Iran, distances the White House from its key allies and put US citizens held in Iran at risk.

Former deputy secretary of state Tony Blinken, who helped negotiate the accord, called it a “monumental mistake” and former senior diplomat Wendy Sherman told reporters Trump was putting international stability at risk for purely domestic political purposes. “This has been a crisis that Trump has been precipitating himself to answer his base, to fulfil a campaign pledge that he made, without any sense whatsoever of what Plan B is,” she told reporters. “It says that the United States is not a reliable partner,” she added, insisting that the existing deal permanently prevents Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon.

Blinken said ending the deal gives “hardliners in Iran an excuse to restart their pursuit of nuclear weapons, but without the united international coalition to oppose them or inspectors on the ground to expose them.” Trump had had until May 12 to decide whether to continue to waive sanctions on Iran’s central bank and its oil sector dealings, a key pillar of the 2015 agreement, but moved more quickly than expected and cancelled sanctions that were not yet up for review.

For months, critics have been warning ending the waivers would unravel the carefully constructed deal, plunge Iran’s already struggling economy into crisis and expose the biggest transatlantic rift since the Iraq War. But some US officials close to Trump, as well as hawkish Washington lobbyists, argue that an Iranian economic collapse could lead to Tehran’s Islamist regime falling — and that this would be a good thing.

Ahead of Trump’s verdict, diplomats shifted into damage limitation mode, hoping that beyond his inevitably harsh rhetoric, he stops short of immediately reimposing sanctions. In Brussels, officials are already working on “blocking” measures that would protect EU citizens and companies from US prosecution. “We are having conversations obviously and we are working on a number of proposals that could protect European companies and operators,” a senior EU official told reporters.

Saudi Arabia, regional rival of Iran and longtime US ally, said it “supports and welcomes” President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. “The kingdom supports and welcomes the steps announced by the US president towards withdrawing from the nuclear deal … and reinstating economic sanctions against Iran,” the foreign ministry said. Trump on Tuesday announced the US withdrawal from the “defective” multinational nuclear deal with Iran, as Washington moved to reinstate punishing sanctions against the Islamic republic.

After consulting with US “friends” across the Middle East, Trump said his country would “not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail”. Following his address, the US leader signed a presidential memorandum to start reinstating US nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. Saudi Arabia accused Iran of “taking advantage of the revenue generated by the lifting of the sanctions to destabilise the region”, the foreign ministry said.

The Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom is locked in multiple proxy wars with its Shiite rival in the Middle East, including in Yemen, Syria and Iraq. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged the other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal to stick to their commitments after Trump announced the United States’ exit from the accord. “I call on other JCPOA participants to abide fully by their respective commitments under the JCPOA and on all other member-states to support this agreement,” Guterres said in a statement, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.

The deal reached between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – imposed curbs to Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump said Tuesday the agreement was “defective” as he announced the US withdrawal and a decision to reimpose sanctions. Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the US decision to pull out of the agreement that he again described as a “major achievement in nuclear non-proliferation and diplomacy”.

The agreement has “contributed to regional and international peace and security,” he said. France, Britain and Germany said they remained committed to the deal and vowed to work on a broader accord with Iran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he would discuss the future of the agreement reached in 2015 with the Europeans, Russia and China. The agreement was endorsed in a resolution adopted by the Security Council. Boeing said Tuesday it will continue to take its cue from US government policy on sales to Iran.

“Following today’s announcement, we will consult with the US government on next steps,” said Gordon Johndroe, a vice president of government operations communications. “As we have throughout this process, we’ll continue to follow the US government’s lead.” The statement was released by the aerospace giant shortly after Trump’s remarks again lambasting the 2015 agreement as “defective at its core.” Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said last month the company has delayed deliveries of 777 planes to Iran amid the Trump administration’s reconsideration of the nuclear deal.

After lengthy negotiations and tight oversight by the Obama administration, Boeing in December 2016 announced a landmark agreement to sell Iran Air 80 aircraft valued at $16.6 billion. The aircraft had been expected to be delivered starting in late 2018. However, Muilenburg said financial targets this year had not accounted for plane deliveries to Iran. Boeing also had announced a contract in April 2017 to sell Iran Aseman Airlines 30 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for $3 billion, with purchase rights for another 30 aircraft. Deliveries were to begin in 2022. Shares of Dow member dropped 0.8 percent to $337.72 in afternoon trading.

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