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Trump labels Iran an 'extremist and fanatical' regime but stops short of pulling out of nuclear deal

The US President says the deal would be kept under constant review by congress.

Trump speaks from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.
Trump speaks from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House.
Image: Evan Vucci/PA Images

Updated 6.30 pm

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump has said that he can pull out of the landmark Iran nuclear deal “at any time” but stopped short of doing so today.

Instead, Trump said that he would not be recertifying the deal, effectively leaving it up to US lawmakers to decide its fate.

Trump said that Congress would be continually reviewing the deal and that it could be “terminated” at any time.

In much-anticipated speech from the White House, Trump described the Iranian regime as “extremist” and “fanatical” and accused it of sponsoring terrorism.

“It has spread death, destruction and chaos around the globe,” Trump said.

Trump said that Iran is not living up to the “spirit” of the nuclear deal that it signed in 2015.

He announced what he said was a “new strategy” towards Iran and said that the United States would be imposing additional sanctions on the regime to block its financing of terrorism.

Trump said the nuclear deal was “one of the worst” and most “one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

He argued that sanctions lifted by the deal gave the country’s leaders a “lifeline” when they were in financial trouble.

Six world powers

The agreement was signed between Iran and six world powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US – at talks coordinated by the European Union.

While the deal stalled Iran’s nuclear program and thawed relations between Iran and its “Great Satan”, opponents say it also prevented efforts to challenge Iranian influence in the Middle East.

Since coming to office, Trump has faced intense lobbying from international allies and his own national security team, who argued the deal should remain in place.

Terrorist organisation

In another partial climbdown, Trump  levied limited sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, rather than inviting retaliation by designating it as a terrorist organisation.

Apart from running swaths of Iran’s economy and Iran’s ballistic program, the corps is also accused of guiding bellicose proxies from Hezbollah in Lebanon, to the Huthi in Yemen to Shia militia in Iraq and Syria.

Still, Trump’s gambit could risk undoing years of careful diplomacy and increasing Middle East tensions.

“Snap back”

UN nuclear inspectors say Iran is meeting the technical requirements of its side of the bargain, dramatically curtailing its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at US counterpart saying he was opposing “the whole world” by trying to abandon a landmark nuclear agreement.

It will be absolutely clear which is the lawless government. It will be clear which country is respected by the nations of the world and global public opinion.

Iran President Hassan Rouhani. Source: AP/PA Images

And Congress must now decide whether to end the nuclear accord by “snapping back” sanctions, which Iran demanded be lifted in exchange for limiting uranium enrichment.

“Existential threat”

Trump has been railing against the Iran deal since before he was elected in November last year.

In office, he has chafed at being required under US law to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the accord every 90 days, declaring that Tehran has broken it “in spirit.”

Right up until the last-minute, America’s closest allies have urged him to reconsider.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spent much of the week on the telephone, talking through a decision that is deeply unpopular with allies.

After Trump’s nationalist UN speech last month, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that the deal “doesn’t belong to one country… it belongs to the international community.”

US allies have not been convinced by the argument that the deal fell short because it left Iran free to develop ballistic missiles and sponsor proxy militias in its region.

“Mixing everything means risking everything,” a French diplomatic source told AFP. “The existential threat is the bomb. The nuclear deal is not meant to solve Lebanon’s problems.”

Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Europe fears not only that Iran will resume the quest for the bomb but that the US is relinquishing its leadership role in a stable, rules-based international system.

On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May called the White House to impress upon it her government’s “strong commitment to the deal alongside our European partners.”

In parallel, her foreign minister, Boris Johnson, told his US counterpart Tillerson “that the nuclear deal was an historic achievement.”

“It was the culmination of 13 years of painstaking diplomacy and has increased security, both in the region and in the UK,” he argued.

 © – AFP 2017 with reporting by Rónán Duffy and AP

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