UPDATE | Trump to Iran: We don't make empty threats; Obama weighs in
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. is pulling out of the landmark international nuclear accord with Iran, declaring he was making the world safer but dealing a profound blow to allies and deepening his isolation on the world stage.
“The United States does not make empty threats,” he said in a televised address from the White House.
Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.” He added that the United States “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction.”
Trump’s decision means Iran’s government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what’s left of the deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he was sending his foreign minister to the countries remaining in the accord but warned there was only a short time to negotiate with them and his country could soon “start enriching uranium more than before.”
Former President Barack Obama is calling Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal a “serious mistake” that will erode America’s global credibility.
Obama’s administration brokered the deal. He says Tuesday that Trump’s decision to withdraw is “misguided,” especially because Iran has been complying.
Obama also warned: “The consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.”
The leaders of Britain, Germany and France immediately urged the U.S. not to take any actions that could prevent them and Iran from continuing to implement the agreement. The statement from Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron also urged Iran to “show restraint” and continue fulfilling its own obligations such as cooperating with inspections.
In Washington, the Trump administration said it would re-impose sanctions on Iran immediately but allow grace periods for businesses to wind down activity.
The Treasury Department said there will be “certain 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods” but didn’t specify which sanctions would fall under which timelines. Treasury says at the end of those periods, the sanctions will be in “full effect.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton said nobody should sign contracts for new business with Iran.
In his remarks, Trump blasted the deal as “defective at its core.” As evidence, he cited documents recently released by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a leading critic of the deal.
Netanyahu unveiled documents seized by Israeli intelligence showed Iran had attempted to develop a nuclear bomb in the previous decade, especially before 2003. Although he gave no explicit evidence that Iran violated the deal, he said Iran had clearly lied in the past and could not be trusted. Iran has denied ever pursuing nuclear arms.
Trump’s announcement drew mixed reaction from Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the Iran deal “was flawed from the beginning,” and he looked forward to working with Trump on next steps. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, slammed Trump in a statement, saying this “rash decision isolates America, not Iran.”
The agreement had lifted most U.S. and international sanctions against Iran. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.