President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal on Tuesday, while announcing stiff new economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” Trump said in his announcement from the White House. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”
He also said that he will impose new tough sanctions on Iran, while warning other countries from doing business with Tehran.
“We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction,” warned Trump. “Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”
As such, the new sanctions instituted by Trump will re-impose oil sanctions and secondary sanctions against the Central Bank of Iran, while also instructing the Treasury Department to develop additional sanctions over the course of the next few weeks. The financial sanctions will give European companies between 90 and 180 days to wind down their business in Iran, while the oil sanctions will require European and Asian countries to reduce their imports from the Islamic Republic.
Trump continued his heavy criticism of the accord, calling it an “embarrassment” and “disastrous.”
“At the point when the U.S. had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime—and it’s a regime of great terror—many billions of dollars, some of it in actually cash, a great embarrassment to me as a citizen.”
Netanyahu supports ‘bold decision’ on Iran
Notably, the president cited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presentation’s last week that detailed new Israeli intelligence outlining Iran’s covert attempts at developing a nuclear arsenal.
“Last week, Israel published intelligence documents—long concealed by Iran—conclusively showing the Iranian regime’s history of pursuing nuclear weapons,” Trump said, while warning that there would soon be a “nuclear-arms race in the Middle East” if he let the deal stand.
Trump also echoed Netanyahu’s rhetoric from the presentation, saying that Iran has “lied” about its past nuclear intentions, and therefore, the 2015 agreement was built on a false premise.
“The so-called Iran deal was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon that will only endanger the survival of the Iranian regime. In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and over time reach the brink of a nuclear blackout,” stated Trump. “Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.”
In his own statement following Trump, Netanyahu said Israel “fully supports” Trump’s “bold decision” on Iran.
“Israel has opposed the nuclear deal from the start because we said that rather than blocking Iran’s path to a bomb, the deal actually paved Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs, and this within a few years’ time,” he said.
Future of nuclear deal?
From his campaign as president until now, Trump has long been a strong opponent of the agreement forged under his predecessor President Barack Obama, yet has held out the option of renegotiating it. On Jan. 12, Trump outlined his intentions to “fix the terrible flaws” of the Iran nuclear deal, giving U.S. and European negotiators a 120-day timetable to implement the changes, which include allowing inspections on military sites, an end to sunset clauses and addressing Iran’s testing of ballistic missiles.
Nevertheless, American and European negotiators have been unable to make the changes to the deal, while the other key signatories—Iran, Russia and China—are opposed to any alterations. European and American diplomats had been deadlocked over the so-called “sunset provisions” of the deal, which would allow the Iranians to begin producing nuclear fuel for civilians use after the deal expires in 2030, the New York Times reported.
In recent weeks, Trump has been visited by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who both lobbied the U.S. leader to remain in the deal. Shortly after his announcement, Macron said he regrets the decision by Trump.
“France, Germany and the United Kingdom regret the U.S. decision to get out of the Iranian nuclear deal,” Macron tweeted. “The international regime against nuclear proliferation is at stake.”
Reacting to the decision, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that he has ordered his foreign ministry to negotiate with the other countries that remain in the nuclear deal – U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia.
“Iran is a country that adheres to its commitments and the U.S. is a country that has never adhered to its commitments,” he said.
Richard Goldberg, a senior advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former leading architect of the toughest sanctions imposed on Iran, told JNS that the president made the right decision and had little choice in trying to fix the deal.
“In the end, all the sanctions pressure will be brought back in order to get a better deal,” said Goldberg.
These sanctions will exert an enormous amount of pressure on the Iranian regime and will worsen the countries ongoing currency collapse and “bring the country’s economy to the brink.”
Asked if the sanctions would be enforceable if countries such as Russia, China and European countries skirt them, Goldberg responded that “the administration will need to make sure they are effective by cracking down on those breaking them.”
Banks in China, Russia and the Gulf states need to be transparent, continued Goldberg, adding that the penalty for violating sanctions is to be “totally cut-off from the U.S. banking system without access to the dollar.”
“No institution in its right mind would take such a risk,” he asserted.
The sanctions expert sees Russia as the most likely candidate to try to skirt sanctions by trying to prop up the Iranian regime as a way to confront the U.S.
As for China, Goldberg does not see the country as much of a factor since “China really does not care about Iran except for its oil.”
“China is much more worried about North Korea, maintaining trade with the U.S., and its oil supply, which could be replaced by the Saudis, the U.S., or others.”
Andrea Stricker, a senior policy analyst at the Institute for Science and International Security, said that her organization is “disappointed that the president was unable to get the fixes he required with the Europeans, but hopes that this lays the basis for a more comprehensive agreement dealing with the nuclear sunsets, ballistic missiles, inspections, and Iran’s regional activities.”
“In the meantime, the IAEA [the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog] still needs to try to seek answers to issues raised by the nuclear archive in Iran. It is Iran’s nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligation to answer those questions,” said Stricker.
Dr. Emmanuel Navon, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies and a senior fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum told JNS in an interview on Tuesday that the Iranians have stated that they will try to keep the deal alive with the Europeans and this is so that they can maintain economic benefits.
Navon said that Trump’s announcement of new sanctions could lead Iran to increase its economic ties with China and Russia.
“If the Iranians continue honoring the deal without the U.S., Tehran still might get enough money to make it worthwhile,” he added.
“I used to think the deal would fall apart if the U.S. withdrew, but now I don’t think it will,” speculated Navon.
Asked if a new deal could be negotiated at the last minute, Navon said this could be possible, but he does not see Iran agreeing. “It makes more sense that Iran would try to keep the agreement going for the cash and test economic ties with other powers.”
The Israeli expert pointed out that “it would be easier for Iran to cheat on the agreement without the U.S. involved.”
Written in coordination with Ariel Ben Solomon.