Trump tears up Iran nuclear deal
DONALD Trump will carry out his threat to pull the US out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, in a move that could cause global chaos.
The President said that "at the heart of the Iran deal is a giant fiction" - that the regime wanted peace.
He said that the nation had continued to develop nuclear capabilities, and if he allowed the accord to remain in place, it would lead to an arms race in the Middle East.
Mr Trump said he would reimpose the highest level of economic sanctions, after these were lifted under the 2015 deal, warning that any nation helping Iran could also be penalised.
"We will not allow a regime that chants 'Death to America' to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth," he said.
This had become informally known as the "nuclear option", because it is almost certain to signal an end to the multination agreement.
Iran will now have to decide whether to follow the US and exit the deal, or try to retain the agreement with other countries.
Mr Trump insisted the US "no longer makes empty threats" in a televised address from the White House.
The deal's European members had in recent days given in to many of Mr Trump's demands in the hope he would choose a more gradual approach, which might have allowed it to survive.
But they failed to prevent his decision to reimpose sanctions and walk away from the deal he has lambasted since his days as a presidential candidate.
The President also noted that secretary of state Mike Pompeo was on his way to North Korea to discuss the upcoming summit.
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 program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.
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. The French President vigorously supports the deal and tried to persuade Mr Trump to stay committed to it during a visit to Washington last month.
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.
If the deal collapses, Iran would be free to resume prohibited enrichment activities, while businesses and banks doing business with Iran would have to scramble to extricate themselves or run afoul of the US.
American officials were dusting off plans for how to sell a pullout to the public and explain its complex financial ramifications, said US officials and others, who weren't authorised to speak ahead of an announcement and requested anonymity.
Mr Trump announced on Twitter he would disclose his decision at 2pm at the White House, keeping the decision confined to a small group within his National Security Council.
In Iran, many were deeply concerned about how his 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 didn't 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.
An immense web of sanctions, written agreements and staggered deadlines make up the accord.
Sanctions on Iran's central bank - intended to target oil exports - will kick back in, rather than being waived once again on Saturday, the next deadline for renewal. The administration will give those who are doing business with Iran a six-month period to wind down business and avoid breaching those sanctions.
The first 15 months of the Trump presidency have been filled with many "last chances" for the Iran deal in which he's punted the decision for another few months, and then another.
Other US sanctions don't require a decision until later, including those on specific Iranian businesses, sectors and individuals that will snap back into place in July unless Mr Trump signs another waiver. A move on Tuesday to restore those penalties ahead of the deadline would be the most aggressive move he could take to close the door to staying in the deal.
Even the secretary of state and the UN agency that monitors nuclear compliance agree that Iran, so far, has lived up to its side of the deal. But the deal's critics, such as Israel, the Gulf Arab states and many Republicans, say it's a giveaway to Tehran that ultimately paves the path to a nuclear-armed Iran several years in the future.
Iran, for its part, has been coy in predicting its response to a Trump withdrawal. For weeks, Iran's foreign minister had been saying that a reimposition of US sanctions would render the deal null and void, leaving Tehran little choice but to abandon it as well.
But on Monday, Mr Rouhani said Iran could stick with it if the European Union, whose economies do far more business with Iran than the US, offers guarantees Iran would keep benefiting. For the Europeans, a Trump withdrawal would also constitute dispiriting proof that trying to appease him is futile.
The three EU members of the deal - Britain, France and Germany - were insistent from the start that it could not be reopened. But they agreed to discuss an "add-on" agreement that wouldn't change the underlying nuclear deal, but would add new restrictions on Iran to address what Mr Trump had identified as its shortcomings.
The President wanted to deter Iran's ballistic missile program and other destabilising actions in the region. He also wanted more rigorous nuclear inspections and an extension of restrictions on Iranian enrichment and reprocessing rather than letting them phase out after about a decade. Negotiating an add-on agreement, rather than revising the existing deal, had the added benefit of not requiring the formal consent of Iran or the other remaining members: Russia and China. The idea was that even if they baulked at the West's impositions, Iran would be likely to comply anyway so as to keep enjoying lucrative sanctions relief.
Although the US and Europeans made progress on ballistic missiles and inspections, there were disagreements over extending the life of the deal and how to trigger additional penalties if Iran were found violating the new restrictions, US officials and European diplomats have said. The Europeans agreed to yet more concessions in the final days of negotiating ahead of Mr Trump's decision, the officials added.