Donald Trump has renewed his threat to fully withdraw the US from the landmark Iran nuclear deal. He also held out the possibility that fixes to the accord could prevent an American pullout.
Justifying his decision to de-certify the 2015 pact, Mr Trump said the US had been taken advantage of in negotiations conducted by the Obama administration and that he was tired of it. He said that is why he refused to certify to Congress last week that the deal remains in America’s national security interest.
At a cabinet meeting, Mr Trump said the final resolution “might be total termination”.He added that “some would say that’s a great possibility”, though he did not rule out staying in the deal. Mr Trump de-certified the pact on the grounds that Iran had committed several violations of the deal and is receiving disproportionate relief from international sanctions for the concessions it made.
“I feel strongly about what I did,” Mr Trump told reporters at a meeting in the White House. “I’m tired of being taken advantage of as a nation. This nation has been taken advantage of for many, many years, for many decades, frankly, and I’m tired of watching it. But the Iran deal was something that I felt had to be done.”
Legislators in Congress now have 60 days to snap back sanctions on Iran that had been suspended, keep the status quo or, as the Trump administration has suggested, amend or replace the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – which compels the president to reaffirm Iran’s compliance with the deal every 90 days.
The law’s requirements could be broadened so sanctions relief for Iran is contingent on things beyond the nuclear deal, such as Tehran halting ballistic missile testing. At the same time, the administration is pressing the other nations in the nuclear agreement to fix what Mr Trump believes are fatal flaws, including the expiration of some restrictions on nuclear activity under so-called “sunset provisions”.
The deal’s other parties are Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union. Mr Trump referred to the lobbying effort with Congress and the other governments as “Phase 2”. He said a failure to achieve either or both could lead him to pull out.
“We’ll see what Phase 2 is. Phase 2 might be positive and it might be very negative. It might be a total termination. That’s a very real possibility. Some would say that’s a greater possibility. But it also could turn out to be very positive. We’ll see what happens.”
Congress is drafting legislation that could alter the existing law but it remains unclear if it could pass.
All the other nations in the deal say it is working and there is no reason to reopen it. However, France has signalled a willingness to try to supplement the accord with side agreements that would address concerns about Iranian nuclear restrictions that begin expiring next decade.