Washington: Finally as expected,Donald Trump has announced he will impose “the highest level of economic sanctions” on Iran, violating an international nuclear agreement and a UN resolution, breaking decisively with US allies in Europe, and potentially triggering a new crisis in the Gulf.
In a statement at the White House, Trump said this decision meant that the US would “exit the Iran deal” agreed with other major powers in 2015, and warned that “any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could be strongly sanctioned”.
He then signed an executive order reimposing sanctions on any foreign company that continues to do business with Iran. The order gives companies 90-day or 180-day grace periods to extract themselves from existing Iranian contacts or face punitive US measures.
The leaders of the UK, France and Germany, who are also parties to the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, issued a statement soon after Trump’s declaration expressing their “regret and concern” and emphasising their “continuing commitment” to the deal.
“We urge the US to ensure that the structures of the JCPOA can remain intact, and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal,” the statement said. In a separate tweet, the French president Emmanuel Macron warned: “The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.” Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said he believed the agreement could still survive if other negotiating partners defied Trump.
But Rouhani warned that he has instructed the country’s atomic energy agency to prepare to restart enrichment of uranium at an industrial level in a few weeks’ time should the deal collapse completely.
“This is a psychological war, we won’t allow Trump to win. I’m happy that the pesky being has left the [agreement],” the Iranian president said.
Iranian lawmakers set a paper US flag on fire at parliament on Wednesday morning, shouting, “Death to America!”. Iran’s parliament speaker said on Wednesday that “Trump only understands the language of force”. “Trump’s abandoning of the nuclear deal was a diplomatic show,” Ali Larijani said.
The European Union’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini, who helped oversee the accord, insisted it was “delivering on its goal which is guaranteeing that Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons”.
“The European Union is determined to preserve it,” she added.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it is “deeply disappointed by the decision of US President Donald Trump to unilaterally refuse to carry out commitments” under the deal.
Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned: “By withdrawing from the JCPOA, Trump hastens the possibility of three disparate but similarly cataclysmic events: an Iranian war, an Iranian bomb or the implosion of the Iranian regime.”
“Iran looms large over major US national security concerns including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, cyber, energy security, terrorism, & obviously nuclear proliferation,” Sadjadpour said in a tweet. “The opportunities for direct conflict are numerous.”