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.


President Donald Trump gets heat for urging Ukraine probe

Updated 21 September 2019

President Donald Trump gets heat for urging Ukraine probe

  • Democrats condemned what they saw as a clear effort to damage a political
  • It was the latest revelation in an escalating controversy that has created a showdown between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump urged the new leader of Ukraine this summer to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a person familiar with the matter said.

Democrats condemned what they saw as a clear effort to damage a political rival, now at the heart of an explosive whistleblower complaint against Trump.

It was the latest revelation in an escalating controversy that has created a showdown between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration, which has refused to turn over the formal complaint by a national security official or even describe its contents.

Trump defended himself Friday against the intelligence official’s complaint, angrily declaring it came from a “partisan whistleblower,” though he also said he didn’t know who had made it. The complaint was based on a series of events, one of which was a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to a two people familiar with the matter. The people were not authorized to discuss the issue by name and were granted anonymity.

Trump, in that call, urged Zelenskiy to probe the activities of potential Democratic rival Biden’s son Hunter, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company, according to one of the people, who was briefed on the call. Trump did not raise the issue of US aid to Ukraine, indicating there was not an explicit quid pro quo, according to the person.

Biden reacted strongly late Friday, saying that if the reports are true, “then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country.” He said Trump should release the transcript of his July phone conversation with Zelenskiy “so that the American people can judge for themselves.”

The government’s intelligence inspector general has described the whistleblower’s Aug. 12 complaint as “serious” and “urgent.” But Trump dismissed it all Friday, insisting “it’s nothing.” He scolded reporters for asking about it and said it was “just another political hack job.”

“I have conversations with many leaders. It’s always appropriate. Always appropriate,” Trump said. “At the highest level always appropriate. And anything I do, I fight for this country.” Trump, who took questions in the Oval Office alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whom he was hosting for a state visit, was asked if he knew if the whistleblower’s complaint centered on his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy.

The president responded, “I really don’t know,” but he continued to insist any phone call he made with a head of state was “perfectly fine and respectful.”

Trump was asked Friday if he brought up Biden in the call with Zelenskiy, and he answered, “It doesn’t matter what I discussed.” But then he used the moment to urge the media “to look into” Biden’s background with Ukraine. There has yet to be any evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden or his son regarding Ukraine.

Trump and Zelenskiy are to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations next week. The Wall Street Journal first reported that Trump pressed Zelenskiy about Biden. The standoff with Congress raises fresh questions about the extent to which Trump’s appointees are protecting the Republican president from oversight and, specifically, whether his new acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, is working with the Justice Department to shield the president.

Democrats say the administration is legally required to give Congress access to the whistleblower’s complaint, and Rep. Adam Schiff of California has said he will go to court in an effort to get it if necessary. The intelligence community’s inspector general said the matter involves the “most significant” responsibilities of intelligence leadership.

House Democrats also are fighting the administration for access to witnesses and documents in impeachment probes. In the whistleblower case, lawmakers are looking into whether Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani traveled to Ukraine to pressure the government to aid the president’s reelection effort by investigating the activities of Biden’s son.

During a rambling interview Thursday on CNN, Giuliani was asked whether he had asked Ukraine to look into Biden. He initially said, “No, actually I didn’t,” but seconds later he said, “Of course I did.” Giuliani has spent months trying to drum up potentially damaging evidence about Biden’s ties to Ukraine. He told CNN that Trump was unaware of his actions.

“I did what I did on my own,” he said. “I told him about it afterward. Still later, Giuliani tweeted, “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job.” Democrats have contended that Trump, in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, may have asked for foreign assistance in his upcoming reelection bid.

Trump further stoked those concerns earlier this year in an interview when he suggested he would be open to receiving foreign help.The inspector general appeared before the House intelligence committee behind closed doors Thursday but declined, under administration orders, to reveal to members the substance of the complaint.

Schiff, a California Democrat, said Trump’s attack on the whistleblower was disturbing and raised concerns that it would have a chilling effect on other potential exposers of wrongdoing. He also said it was “deeply disturbing” that the White House appeared to know more about the complaint than its intended recipient — Congress.

The information “deserves a thorough investigation,” Schiff said. “Come hell or high water, that’s what we’re going to do.” Among the materials Democrats have sought is a transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy. The call took place one day after Mueller’s faltering testimony to Congress effectively ended the threat his probe posed to the White House. A readout of the call released from the Ukrainian government said Trump believed Kyiv could complete corruptions investigations that have hampered relations between the two nations but did not get into specifics.

Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who in May called for a probe of Giuliani’s effort in Ukraine, said in an interview on Friday it’s “outrageous” the president has been sending his political operative to talk to Ukraine’s new president. Murphy tweeted that during his own visit it was clear to him that Ukraine officials were “worried about the consequences of ignoring Giuliani’s demands.”

The senator tweeted that he told Zelenskiy during their August visit it was “best to ignore requests from Trump’s campaign operatives. He agreed.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump faces “serious repercussions” if reports about the complaint are accurate. She said it raises “grave, urgent concerns for our national security.”

Letters to Congress from the inspector general make clear that Maguire consulted with the Justice Department in deciding not to transmit the complaint to Congress in a further departure from standard procedure. It’s unclear whether the White House was also involved, Schiff said.

Maguire has refused to discuss details of the whistleblower complaint, but he has been subpoenaed by the House panel and is expected to testify publicly next Thursday. Maguire and the inspector general, Michael Atkinson, also are expected next week at the Senate intelligence committee.

Atkinson wrote in letters that Schiff released that he and Maguire had hit an “impasse” over the acting director’s decision not to share the complaint with Congress. Atkinson said he was told by the legal counsel for the intelligence director that the complaint did not actually meet the definition of an “urgent concern.” And he said the Justice Department said it did not fall under the director’s jurisdiction because it did not involve an intelligence professional.

Atkinson said he disagreed with that Justice Department view. The complaint “not only falls under DNI’s jurisdiction,” Atkinson wrote, “but relates to one of the most significant and important of DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”