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.


Emotional Muslims return to Christchurch mosque as New Zealand works to move on

Updated 23 March 2019
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Emotional Muslims return to Christchurch mosque as New Zealand works to move on

  • Al Noor was handed back to the local Muslim community on Saturday and began allowing small groups onto its grounds around midday
  • “We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” said Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at Al Noor

CHRISTCHURCH: Muslims held emotional prayers inside Christchurch’s main mosque on Saturday for the first time since a white supremacist massacred worshippers there, as New Zealand sought to return to normality after the tragedy.
The Al Noor mosque had been taken over by police for investigations and security reasons after alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant gunned down Muslims gathered there and at a smaller mosque for Friday prayers on March 15, killing 50 people.
Al Noor was handed back to the local Muslim community on Saturday and began allowing small groups onto its grounds around midday.
“We are allowing 15 people at a time, just to get some normality,” said Saiyad Hassen, a volunteer at Al Noor, adding that there were no plans yet to fully reopen.
Among the first to enter was massacre survivor Vohra Mohammad Huzef, who said two of his roommates were killed and that he managed to live only by hiding under bodies.
“I could feel the bullets hitting the people and I could feel the blood coming down on me from the people who were shot,” said Huzef, a Christchurch civil engineer originally from India.
“Everyone wants to get back in again to give praise and to catch up. This is the central point of our community.”
The attacks shocked a country of 4.5 million that is known for its tolerance and prompted global horror, heightened by Tarrant’s cold-blooded livestreaming of the massacre.
New Zealand came to a standstill on Friday to mark one week since the bloodshed, with the Muslim call to prayer broadcast across the country followed by two minutes of silence.
The ceremonies saw poignant scenes of Maoris performing the traditional haka war dance, and non-Muslim New Zealand women donning makeshift Islamic headscarves in solidarity.
A day earlier, the country outlawed the military-style rifles used in the assault with immediate effect.
But one of four concert sites at a music festival in the capital Wellington was evacuated on Saturday night just before a planned minute of silence for Christchurch, underlining lingering apprehensions.
Police cited unspecified “concerns about a person,” but later called it an “innocent misunderstanding” and the concert was slated to proceed.
In Christchurch, police also handed back Linwood Mosque, the second killing zone several kilometers away from Al Noor, but no plans to allow visitors were announced.
An armed police presence will remain at both mosques, as well as others around New Zealand.
Workers have rushed to repair the mosques’ bullet-pocked walls and clean blood-spattered floors.
At Al Noor, visitors knelt at a garden tap to wash their feet and faces in ritual pre-prayer ablutions.
Some wept quietly inside the mosque, where bright sunlight streamed through windows and the air smelled of fresh paint. No bullet holes were seen.
Men and women then knelt and prayed on a padded carpet underlay taped to the floor, still awaiting replacements for the mosque’s blood-stained rugs.
Several members of Christchurch semi-professional football club Western A.F.C. arrived in team colors to honor three victims who were known to the team due to their interest in the sport. The players left a bouquet of flowers outside the entrance to the mosque’s grounds.
The victims included 14-year-old Sayyad Milne, who dreamed of playing in goal for Manchester United, according to his father.
“We all love playing football and the best thing we can do is just to go out and enjoy it really, and obviously play for those guys that have been lost and think about them while we are doing it,” said team member Aaron McDonald, 20.
The mosque’s imam Gamal Fouda arrived draped in a New Zealand flag.
The day before, Fouda delivered an impassioned memorial service at a park next to the mosque that was watched globally and in which he praised “unbreakable” New Zealand for uniting in the tragedy’s wake.
Around 2,000 people gathered Saturday at the same park to join a “March for Love” procession through Christchurch.
Officials and police said two relatives of victims had died, with New Zealand identifying one as 65-year-old Suad Adwan, who had arrived from Jordan for the burial of her son Kamel Darwish, 38.
The grief-stricken mother was found Saturday morning having apparently died in her sleep, just hours after her son’s burial, of what police called a “medical event.”
No other details on the deaths were given.
But normality slowly returned to Christchurch as children played cricket near Al Noor and a previously scheduled 100-kilometer (62-mile) cycling race went ahead as planned.
New Zealand, which has already charged two people for distributing the gruesome livestreamed video of the attack, has now also made it a crime to share the alleged killer’s “manifesto,” local media reported.
In the document, Tarrant says the killings were in response to what he termed a Muslim “invasion” of Western countries.
“Others have referred to this publication as a ‘manifesto’, but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism,” Chief Censor David Shanks was quoted as saying.