Trump expected to strike blow at Iran nuclear deal
President Donald Trump is expected to announce Tuesday that he will reimpose at least one set of sanctions on Iran, a move that could lead to the collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, though perhaps not immediately.
Trump’s decision is likely to exacerbate tensions between his administration and key European allies at a time when the U.S. faces several global challenges, including how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program. But it would likely please U.S. allies in Israel and the Gulf Arab states, who view the nuclear deal as a boon to an Iran they fear is rapidly expanding its presence and influence in the Middle East.
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The 2015 nuclear deal removed a slew of U.S. and international economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for severe curbs and regular inspections of the Islamist-led country’s nuclear program.
Trump has hinted for months that he wants to quit the agreement, which was negotiated under the Barack Obama administration. Promises from Germany, Britain and France — who, along with Russia and China, are also party to the deal — to address Trump’s concerns about the agreement apparently failed to move the U.S. president.
Still, much will depend on exactly what Trump announces Tuesday afternoon.
He could, for instance, reimpose the sanctions that are up for review by a Saturday deadline but delay their implementation for a few months. That will give the Europeans and Iranians extra time to address Trump’s concerns about the nuclear agreement before Trump faces a July 11 deadline to reimpose or waive a much larger set of sanctions.
He could also announce that he is reimposing all relevant U.S. sanctions effective immediately, which would be a much bigger blow and greatly hasten the deal’s demise.
European officials insist that they will try to salvage the deal, even if the United States abandons its commitments. “We are determined to save this deal because this accord safeguards against nuclear proliferation and is the right way to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Berlin on Monday.
Russia and China, meanwhile, issued a joint statement last week that declared their “unwavering support for the comprehensive and effective implementation” of the deal and cited “the urgent necessity for all parties” to “rigorously adhere to and fully implement their commitments.”
White House officials were coy about what Trump would announce, while others in the administration said they genuinely did not know what the president is planning. Speaking on Fox News, the White House legislative affairs director, Marc Short, said: “I think the president has been clear about his demands for a better deal, and I think he will make his case to the American people today.”
Republicans, including some who opposed the deal, have been nervous about Trump’s desire to walk away from it. Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted in a statement Tuesday that Iran had already received many of the benefits of the deal, including the unfreezing of tens of billion dollars of its assets.
“Tearing up the nuclear deal will not recover this cash,” said Royce, a Republican from California. “That toothpaste isn’t going back into the tube. It also won’t help galvanize our allies into addressing Iran’s dangerous activities that threaten us all. I fear a withdrawal would actually set back these efforts. And Congress has heard nothing about alternative.”
Iran has said it will not renegotiate the nuclear deal, but it has also signaled that it will try to stay in it if it can work something out with the Europeans, whose business Iran is seeking to improve its economy. [Thanks to a slew of non-nuclear U.S. sanctions that remain in place, most American businesses are still forbidden from engaging Iran.]