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

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.

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

Updated 13 min 38 sec ago

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

  • Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year
  • SOAS said that it had taken short term action to reduce costs

LONDON: A UK university specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East has been forced to slash costs and implement drastic staff cuts after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its financial problems.
Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, said they feared that management was cutting costs to make the college an attractive takeover target for an overseas institution or one of its London rivals, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year.
The effects of the pandemic on student recruitment meant “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the school’s ability to continue as a going concern” over the next 12 months, SOAS’s auditors warned.
One academic at SOAS told the Guardian that the college’s senior managers had “been unable to make significant changes over the last few years, and now it has ended in a big crisis. This is a serious failure of management.”
Its senior academics were ordered to identify staff cuts that were to be submitted on Friday, and departments were asked to balance their budgets while expecting a 50 percent drop in new international students, the report said.
SOAS’s International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies Center, which provides courses to international students, has reportedly been told to make so many cuts that it will effectively disappear, along with its 55 staff.
The college’s highly regarded international development department, which is ranked eighth in the world, will also suffer from major cuts. Its famed anthropology and sociology department is likely to lose between a third and half of its academic staff.
“I think people are in shock,” a staff member said. “This all happened while we are still coping with COVID-19.”
SOAS released a statement on Friday saying the coronavirus pandemic had affected all British universities and that it was “taking decisive action now so that we can continue to ensure we provide an excellent student experience to our new and returning students.”
It acknowledged that although its “accounts show that SOAS has already taken steps to reduce its deficit position,” the “impact of COVID-19 has put finances across the HE sector under even greater pressure than before.”
It added that it had taken short term action to reduce costs including “pausing capital spend, line by line scrutiny of non-pay budgets” and reducing the use of building space in the Bloomsbury area in London, outside its core campus.
SOAS also said that additional proposals for change were being considered and would be implemented ahead of the start of the new academic year in September. 
SOAS, University of London, has been ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for Arts and Humanities, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
The rankings place SOAS 13th in the UK and 57th in the world.