President Donald Trump announces US withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal

President Trump shows a signed Presidential Memorandum after delivering a statement on the Iran nuclear deal on May 8, 2018. (AP)
Updated 08 May 2018
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President Donald Trump announces US withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal

  • President Trump has campaigned regularly against the Iran nuclear deal
  • Iranians fear pullout will prompt fresh US sanctions as the rial slumps

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump last night pulled the United States out of an international nuclear agreement with Iran and ordered hard-hitting sanctions to be reimposed on the country.

The US president had long pledged to tear up “the worst deal in history,” but any hopes that he may leave a door open to save the agreement were dashed with a searing critique of the deal and condemnation of Tehran as the leading state sponsor of terror.

“I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said at the White House. “In a few moments, I will sign a presidential memorandum to begin reinstating US nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions."

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in 2015 with world powers placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for a waiver on sanctions that had crippled the country’s economy.

But Trump said it was a “horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.

“We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement.

“If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

Trump and other critics of the Obama-era deal, including Saudi Arabia, say the agreement fails to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and has empowered Tehran to continue its expansive foreign policy in countries such as Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia said it supported Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal, which the Kingdom had previously supported based on the belief “that it would limit the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

“However, Iran exploited the economic benefits of lifting sanctions and used it to continue its destabilizing activities in the region, especially through the development of ballistic missiles, and its support for terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and the Houthi militia,” the government said. 

Riyadh accused Iran of using these capabilities to target civilians in the Kingdom — a reference to ballistic missiles that have been fired at Saudi Arabia by Iran’s allies in Yemen. 

Trump repeatedly referred to Iran’s actions in the region as evidence that the deal is “defective at its core.”

“After the sanctions were lifted, the dictatorship used its new funds to build nuclear capable missiles, support terrorism, and cause havoc throughout the Middle East and beyond,” Trump said.

In response, Iran’s President, Hassan Rouhani, one of the main backers of the deal inside Iran, said his country would remain committed to the agreement.

“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,” he said.

Rouhani said he had ordered his foreign ministry to negotiate with European countries, China and Russia in coming weeks.

Trump said the US would institute “the highest level” of economic sanctions and that any country that “helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned.”

The US Treasury said there will be “certain 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods,” but didn’t specify which sanctions would fall under which timelines.

At the end of those periods, the sanctions would be in “full effect.”

The decision creates a major rift between the US and Europe, which lobbied hard for Washington to stay in the deal.

The European Union’s diplomatic chief, Federica Mogherini, said the EU is “determined to preserve” the deal if Tehran sticks to its commitments.

The accord “is delivering on its goal, which is guaranteeing that Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons,” Mogherini said.

Britain, Germany and France urged the US not to take steps that would make life harder for other countries that still wanted to stick to the deal.

“We urge the US to ensure that the structures of the JCPOA (deal) can remain intact,” the leaders of Britain, Germany and France said in a joint statement.

Israel, one of the deal’s biggest critics, described Trump’s decision as “historic.”

Benjamin Netanyahu last week claimed a trove of documents seized in Iran showed that Tehran had lied about not wanting to seek an atomic weapon.

He said leaving the Iran deal unchanged would be “a recipe for disaster, a disaster for our region, a disaster for the peace of the world.”

Trump used his statement to offer an alternative scenario to Iran by highlighting the progress made in negotiations with North Korea. He said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way to North Korea to lay the groundwork for the anticipated summit with Kim Jong-un.

He said Iran’s leaders “are going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people.”

The JPCOA took years to negotiate and includes complex layers of timelines, inspection regimes and sanctions relief. The full extent of what the US withdrawal means for banks and businesses is still unclear. 

“After withdrawal, the next question is: What is the next target? Is it a better nuclear deal? Is it regime collapse, or gaining leverage or signalling?” Behnam Ben Taleblu, research fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, told Arab News. 

“The president is well-known for his strong belief that you should take a bad deal and turn it into a good deal, so is he going to fix it, mix it or nix it? 

But there are also fears that the US withdrawal could escalate tensions in the region where Iran’s forces and proxies are increasingly antagonizing rival countries.

“He (Trump) is manufacturing a crisis that has serious ramifications for further instability in the Middle East in terms of potentially witnessing nuclear proliferation, not just from Iran, but also other states and also seeing a potential escalation of tensions in Middle East, particularly between Israel and Iran,” said Dr. Sanam Vakil, associate fellow at Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.


Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

A woman carries a placard as Ireland holds a referendum on liberalising abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland, on Friday. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Ireland referendum could lift strict ban on abortion

  • Exit polls says 68 percent of voters back change
  • The country's leaders support a "yes," an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment

DUBLIN: Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether to end the country’s strict abortion ban. It was a battle for the very soul of a traditionally conservative Roman Catholic nation that has seen a wave of liberalization in recent years.
An Irish Times exit poll released Friday night projected a landslide victory for those who want to loosen abortion laws, but official results are not expected until Saturday afternoon.
The country’s leaders support a “yes,” an outcome that would repeal a 1983 constitutional amendment requiring authorities to treat a fetus and its mother as equals under the law. They called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to liberalize some of Europe’s strictest abortion rules.
Voters went to the polls after a campaign that aroused deep emotions on both sides. For advocates of repeal, a “yes” vote would be a landmark in Irish women’s fight for equality and the right to control their own bodies. For opponents, it would be a betrayal of Ireland’s commitment to protect the unborn.
The vote also is a key indicator of Ireland’s trajectory, three years after the country voted to allow same-sex marriages and a year after its first openly gay prime minister took office.
The newspaper exit poll indicated overwhelming support for change. The survey by pollster Ipsos-MRBI says 68 percent of voters backed repeal of the ban and 32 percent opposed it. The pollster says it interviewed some 4,000 people and the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points. The poll is only a prediction.
Theresa Sweeney, a repeal supporter, was one of the first to arrive at a church polling station in Dublin.
“I feel like I’ve waited all of my adult life to have a say on this,” she said.
Emma Leahy said her “yes” vote comes from her firm belief that everyone should be able to make their own choice when it comes to abortion.
“For Ireland, it’s hope for the future,” she said of the referendum. “Whether you agree or disagree, it shouldn’t be the government or anyone else making that decision.”
Vera Rooney voted against repeal.
“It is a hard decision but I just feel I don’t have the right to take life,” she said. “I think life is sacred and for that reason I had to vote no.”
The referendum will decide whether the eighth amendment of the constitution is repealed or stays in place.
The amendment requires authorities to equally protect the right to life of a mother and that of a fetus, from the moment of conception. That effectively bans all abortions in Ireland, except in cases when the woman’s life is at risk. Having an illegal abortion is punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and several thousand Irish women travel each year to get abortions in neighboring Britain.
If citizens vote in favor of repeal, new abortion laws will then be discussed in parliament. The government proposes that terminations be allowed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Later abortions would be allowed in special cases.
Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, a doctor, voted in favor of repeal.
“Not taking anything for granted of course, but quietly confident,” he said, adding that the upside of a sunny day in Ireland is that people come out to vote.
Thousands of Irish people abroad traveled home to take part in the historic referendum, and supporters of repeal gathered at Dublin Airport to give arrivals an ecstatic welcome.
Some activists held a placard reading “Thank you for making the journey so other women don’t have to” — a reference to the way Irish women seeking abortions have had to leave the country to obtain them.
Tara Flynn, who 11 years ago flew to the Netherlands for an abortion, said she planned to vote “yes” to make sure future generations of women don’t endure what she did, with feelings of isolation and shame.
She said her vote would be one for solidarity and compassion, “a vote to say, I don’t send you away anymore.”
Campaigning was not allowed Friday, but Dublin was still filled with signs and banners urging citizens to vote “yes” or “no.” Many of the anti-abortion signs showed photographs of fetuses.
Voting has already taken place on Ireland’s remote islands so that paper ballots can be taken to the mainland and counted in time.
Letters to the editor published Friday in the Irish Independent newspaper contained several emotional arguments urging voters to reject the repeal movement.
“If we vote ‘yes’ every unborn, wanted and unwanted, will have zero rights,” wrote Frances Kelleher, from Killarney. “I do not believe the smart people of Ireland want this unrestricted, abortion-on-demand bill.”