WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Trump pulled the United States out of an international nuclear deal with Iran on Tuesday, raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East, upsetting European allies and casting uncertainty over global oil supplies.
Trump said in a televised address from the White House that he would reimpose U.S. economic sanctions on Iran to undermine “a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.”
The 2015 agreement, worked out by the United States, five other world powers and Iran, lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. The pact was designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
But Trump complains that the accord, the signature foreign policy achievement of his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.
Iran has extended its political and military influence in the Middle East in recent years, deeply worrying U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Underscoring the tension in the region, the Israeli military went on high alert on Tuesday for a possible flare-up with neighboring Syria, which is allied to Iran.
An Israeli air strike targeted a Syrian army position south of Damascus on Tuesday but caused no casualties, a commander in the regional alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Reuters.
Abandoning the Iran pact was the latest element of Trump’s high-stakes “America First” policy, which has led the United States to announce its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, come close to a trade war with China and pull out of an Asian-Pacific trade deal.
Iran and Europe to stay in deal
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran would remain in the deal without Washington.
Iranian state television said Trump’s decision to withdraw was “illegal, illegitimate and undermines international agreements.”
Renewing sanctions would make it much harder for Iran to sell its oil abroad or use the international banking system.
Iran is the third-largest member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and pumps about 3.8 million barrels per day of crude, or just under 4 percent of global supply. China, India, Japan and South Korea buy most of its 2.5 million bpd of exports.
According to the U.S. Treasury, sanctions related to Iran’s energy, auto and financial sectors will be reimposed in three and six months.
Iran denies it has tried to build atomic weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. U.N. inspectors say Iran has not broken the nuclear deal and senior U.S. officials themselves have said several times that Iran is in technical compliance with the pact.
Trump said he was willing to negotiate a new deal with Iran, but Tehran already has ruled that out and threatened unspecified retaliation if Washington pulled out.
Trump’s decision is a snub to European allies such as France, Britain and Germany that are also part of the Iran deal and tried hard to convince the president to preserve it. The Europeans must now scramble to decide their own course of action with Tehran.
Saudi Arabia, Iran’s arch-foe in the Middle East, also welcomed Trump’s decision.
Michigan legislators react
“This dangerous decision puts our national security at risk.” – U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell
Legislators from Michigan criticized the president for pulling the U.S. out of the deal, saying the move leads to a more unstable Middle East and damages relations with allied nations.
Senator Gary Peters said although he had his reservations with the deal as it was negotiated, he felt that accepting the agreement was the only viable path toward ensuring national security and maintain international opposition to a nuclear-armed Iran.
“We had an opportunity to make the Iran deal stronger and to make the United States and our allies safer,” Peters said. “Today, it appears the [Trump] administration, through lack of proper preparation and planning, has failed to capitalize on that opportunity.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) said withdrawing from the agreement without an alternative plan was “irresponsible.”
“This dangerous decision puts our national security at risk,” Dingell said. “The Iran Nuclear Agreement has worked as intended for more than two years, preventing Iran from obtaining the materials needed to gain nuclear capability. This decision jeopardizes our relationship with our allies around the world and threatens the security of the American people.”
U.S. Representative Dan Kildee (D-Flint) called Trump’s decision “dangerous” and opens up a path for Iran to build nuclear weapons.
“The Iran nuclear agreement’s sole objective is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Before this agreement, Iran had the capability to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of months. But because of this diplomatic agreement, Iran gave up its stockpiles of enriched uranium and was subject to independent inspections to make sure they are complying with the deal. Like any negotiation, the Iran agreement is not perfect, but it has so far achieved its goal of preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.
“Before this agreement, Iran had the capability to build a nuclear bomb in a matter of months,” Kildee said. “But because of this diplomatic agreement, Iran gave up its stockpiles of enriched uranium and was subject to independent inspections to make sure they are complying with the deal. To be clear—Iran continues to be a bad actor on the world stage. But it is much wiser for the United States and our allies to diplomatically address these bad behaviors without Iran having nuclear weapons.
U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) said withdrawing from the deal will damage the county’s credibility and embolden Iran to build nuclear weapons.
“As we await international responses to the U.S. withdrawal, there is no doubt in my mind that that the current administration has deliberately chosen to weaken our credibility and diplomacy in a way that will be difficult to repair,” Lawrence said. “As a member of Congress, I will continue to fight for the safety and diplomacy of our great country.”
Obama says Trump’s decision is misguided
“I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake… and why today’s announcement is so misguided.” – Former President Obama
Former President Obama said on Tuesday that President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, struck during Obama’s presidency, was “misguided.”
“I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of
the deal is a serious mistake,” Obama said in a statement, referring to the acronym for the agreement worked out by the United States, five other world powers and Iran.
Since leaving office in January 2017, Obama, a Democrat, has largely remained on the sidelines of the political debate, although he has criticized his Republican successor’s efforts to undo some of his major policy achievements.
Obama said the Iran agreement significantly rolled back Tehran’s nuclear program and was a model for a possible deal Trump hopes to negotiate with North Korea to eliminate Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.
“That is why today’s announcement is so misguided,” Obama said.
“Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated,” he said.
Turkey and Russia say U.S. wrong to quit Iran deal
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed in a telephone call on Thursday that the United States had been wrong to withdraw from a big-power nuclear deal with Iran, a Turkish presidential source said.
U.N. chief “deeply concerned” by Trump’s decision
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the remaining parties to the Iran nuclear deal to abide by their commitments after President Trump said that Washington would withdraw.
Guterres said in a statement that he was “deeply concerned” by Trump’s decision. “It is essential that all concerns regarding the implementation of the plan be addressed through the mechanisms established in the JCPOA. Issues not directly related to the JCPOA should be addressed without prejudice to preserving the agreement and its accomplishments,” Guterres said.