WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday the U.S. will pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, declaring he’s making the world safer but dealing a profound blow to allies and deepening the president’s isolation on the world stage.
“The United States does not make empty threats,” he said in a televised address from the White House Diplomatic Room.
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. Iran has offered conflicting statements about what it may do — and the answer may depend on exactly how Trump exits the agreement.
One official briefed on the decision said Trump would move to reimpose all sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the 2015 deal, not just the ones facing an immediate deadline.
Supporters of trying to fix the agreement had hoped Trump would choose a piecemeal approach that could leave more room for him to reverse himself and stay in if he could secure the additional restrictions on Iran that European nations have tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with Trump. Still, the administration planned to allow a grace period of at least three months and possibly up to six months so that businesses and governments can wind down operations that would violate the reimposed U.S. sanctions, officials said.
As administration officials briefed congressional leaders about Trump’s plans Tuesday, they emphasized that just as with a major Asia trade deal and the Paris climate pact that Trump has abandoned, he remains open to renegotiating a better deal, one person briefed on the talks said.
The Iran agreement, struck in 2015 by the United States, other world powers and Iran, lifted most U.S. and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.
In a burst of last-minute diplomacy, punctuated by a visit by Britain’s top diplomat, the deal’s European members gave in to many of Trump’s demands, according to officials, diplomats and others briefed on the negotiations. Yet they still left convinced he was likely to re-impose sanctions.
Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping about his decision Tuesday. The British foreign secretary traveled to Washington this week to make a last-minute pitch to the U.S. to remain in the deal, according to a senior British diplomat. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the British objective will remain to uphold and maintain the deal.
Hours before the announcement, European countries met to underline their support for the agreement. Senior officials from Britain, France and Germany met in Brussels with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, Abbas Araghchi.