Thursday 19 September 2019

Everything you need to know about the Iran nuclear deal as Trump announces exit

Trump said no action taken by Iran has been more dangerous than its pursuit of nuclear weapons

President Donald Trump is due to announce his decision on Iran (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)
President Donald Trump is due to announce his decision on Iran (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP) Newsdesk

US President Donald Trump has followed through on his campaign threat to pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran.

Trump made the announcement that he is pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal in a White House address on Tuesday at 2pm (7pm Irish time).

"As we exit the Iran deal we will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive and lasting solution to the Iran nuclear threat," he said.

Mr Trump spoke out against the arrangement as "a horrible, one-sided deal" based on a lie.

He said that if he allowed the deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race, and called Iran a "regime of great terror".

He said that "no action taken by the regime has been more dangerous than its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them".

The move deals a profound blow to US allies and potentially deepens the president’s isolation on the world stage.

The agreement, struck in 2015 by the United States, other world powers and Iran, lifted most US and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear programme making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.

Protesters rally in support of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in front of the White House (AP)

Iranian state television said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal was "illegal, illegitimate and undermines international agreements".

Iran's president has warned the country could start enriching uranium more than ever in the coming weeks, if negotiations fail with countries remaining in the nuclear deal.

President Hassan Rouhani made the statement immediately after Donald Trump said he was pulling the US out of the deal.

Mr Rouhani spoke live on Iranian state television. He said he would send Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to countries remaining in the accord.

He said: "I have ordered Iran's atomic organisation that whenever it is needed, we will start enriching uranium more than before."

He said Iran would start this "in the next weeks".

President Rouhani said that Iran will remain committed to a multinational nuclear deal despite U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreemen.

"If we achieve the deal's goals in cooperation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place... By exiting the deal, America has officially undermined its commitment to an international treaty," Rouhani said in a televised speech.

"I have ordered the foreign ministry to negotiate with the European countries, China and Russia in coming weeks. If at the end of this short period we conclude that we can fully benefit from the JCPOA with the cooperation of all countries, the deal would remain," he added.

Trump said he was reimposing economic sanctions on Iran and pulling the United States out of an international agreement aimed at stopping Tehran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.  

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has said that he is "greatly disappointed" by President Trump's decision and said he hopes that other parties will continue to implement the agreement.

Thee Foreign Affairs Minister said in a statement this evening: "We share many of the concerns which the US has expressed about other aspects of Iranian policy, but the way to address these is not to move away from the one area where significant positive progress has been made.

"That remains our view, and I hope that the United States will reconsider this decision.

"I hope that all other parties to the agreement, including Iran but also the EU and others, will continue to implement the agreement. The Middle East, and the world, are safer and more stable with this agreement in operation."

Former US president Barack Obama has called the US pullout from the Iran nuclear deal a “serious mistake,” and warned it will erode America’s global credibility.

In a joint statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal was a matter of “regret and concern”.

"France, Germany and the UK regret the U.S. decision to leave the JCPOA. The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake," Macron said on Twitter moments after Trump spoke.

Germany will try to keep the 2015 Iran nuclear deal alive despite President Donald Trump's announcement that he was pulling the United States out of the agreement, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday.

"We will try to keep alive this important agreement, which ensures the Middle East and the world as a whole are safer," Maas told broadcaster ARD.

A spokesman for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that the decision by the United States to unilaterally withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal will cause instability and new conflicts.

In a tweet, Ibrahim Kalin also said the multilateral agreement would continue with the other nations, and added that Turkey would continue to oppose all forms of nuclear weapons.

Mr Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping about his decision on Tuesday. Mr Macron’s office said the two spoke about “peace and stability in the Mideast,” without elaborating.

Mr Macron vigorously supports the deal and tried to persuade Mr Trump to stay committed to it during a visit to Washington last month.

(PA Graphics)

Hours before the announcement, European countries involved in the agreement met to underline their support for it. Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany met in Brussels with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Abbas Araghchi.

Building up anticipation, Mr Trump announced on Twitter he would disclose his decision at 2pm (7pm UK time) at the White House. With uncharacteristic discipline, he kept the decision confined to a small group within his National Security Council.

An anti-US mural painted on the wall of the former US Embassy in Tehran (Vahid Salemi/AP)

In Iran, many were deeply concerned about how Mr Trump’s decision could affect the already struggling economy. In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani sought to calm nerves, smiling as he appeared at a petroleum expo. He did not name Mr Trump directly, but emphasised that Iran continued to seek “engagement with the world”.

“It is possible that we will face some problems for two or three months, but we will pass through this,” Mr Rouhani said.

Here we look at the background to the controversial decision:

What is the Iran nuclear deal?

Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in a 2015 deal struck with the US, UK, Russia, China, France and Germany.

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) Tehran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium and heavy-water, all key components for nuclear weapons.

Why did Iran agree to the deal?

It had been hit with devastating economic sanctions by the United Nations, United States and the European Union that are estimated to have cost it tens of billions of pounds a year in lost oil export revenues. Billions in overseas assets had also been frozen.

Why is it under threat?

The deal was the key foreign policy achievement of Barack Obama's presidency, making it an immediate target for successor Donald Trump.

On the presidential campaign trail Mr Trump made his opposition clear and then continued to make threats about pulling out of the "worst" deal the US has "ever" signed up to because of its "disastrous flaws".

The next deadline in the US for waiving sanctions is May 12 but Mr Trump announced on Monday that he would reveal his decision today.

What is Britain's position?

The Government does admit the deal is not perfect as it fails to cover areas such as ballistic missiles and is time-limited, but insists it is the option with the "fewest disadvantages".

Germany, France and the United Nations all urged the US not to withdraw, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson making a last-ditch attempt to preserve the deal during a trip to Washington on Monday.

What happens now the United States has pulled out?

Iran has warned the move effectively amounts to "killing the deal".

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