President Donald Trump has announced he will withdraw the US from an Obama-era nuclear agreement with Iran.
Calling it “decaying and rotten”, President Trump said the deal was “an embarrassment” to him “as a citizen”.
Going against advice from European allies, the president said he would re-impose economic sanctions that were waived when the deal was signed in 2015.
Iran has responded saying that it was preparing to restart uranium enrichment, key for making both nuclear energy and weapons.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “The US has announced that it doesn’t respect its commitments.
“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels.”
Image source Flickr
Hassan Rouhani said he would “wait a few weeks” to speak to allies and the other signatories to the nuclear deal.
According to the Treasury, economic sanctions would not be re-imposed on Iran immediately, but would be subject to 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods.
In a statement on its website, the Treasury said sanctions would be re-imposed on the industries mentioned in the 2015 deal, including Iran’s oil sector, aircraft exports, precious metals trade, and Iranian government attempts to buy US dollar banknotes.
The UK, France and Germany – who are also signatories to the deal – have said they “regret” the American decision.
The EU’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said the EU was “determined to preserve” the deal.
However, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he “fully supports” President Trump’s “bold” withdrawal from a “disastrous” deal.
Donald Trump had previously complained that the deal only limited Iran’s nuclear activities for a fixed period; had failed to stop the development of ballistic missiles; and had handed Iran a $100 billion windfall that it used “as a slush fund for weapons, terror, and oppression” across the Middle East.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who was involving in negotiating the deal, tweeted that pulling out of it risked “dragging the world back to the brink we faced a few years ago”.
The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) saw Iran agree to limit the size of its stockpile of enriched uranium – which is used to make reactor fuel, but also nuclear weapons – for 15 years and the number of centrifuges installed to enrich uranium for 10 years.
Iran also agreed to modify a heavy water facility so it could not produce plutonium suitable for a bomb.
Gulf leaders have announced they will not attend the summit of US and allied Arab states at Camp David later this week.
Their substitution with more junior leaders is being seen as a rebuff to President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia announced on May 10 that he would not attend.
The White House, which has not publicly commented, previewed King Salman’s visit as recently as May 8.
The talks, which will now be largely attended by leaders at the ministerial level, were designed to reassure the Arab allies of US support on a number of issues including talks with Iran and instability in several Arab states.
The official reason for the Saudi leader’s absence is that the summit coincides with a humanitarian cease-fire in Yemen, where a Saudi-led alliance is battling Shiite Houthi rebels.
President Barack Obama had planned to meet with King Salman on May 13 – the day before the summit was supposed to take place at Camp David, near Washington.
Leading the Saudi delegation now will be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who also serves as the country’s interior minister.
King Salman’s son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, will also be in the delegation.
Separately, the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain, whose leadership has close ties to the Saudis, said that it would be sending its crown prince, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, to the meeting.
Bahrain plays host to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is Washington’s main maritime counterbalance to Iran, and is in charge of US operations around the Arabian Peninsula and northern Indian Ocean.
The Sultan of Oman and the President of the United Arab Emirates are both known to be very ill, and do not travel for non-medical purposes – and were not expected to attend.
The Kuwaiti emir, Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, will attend the summit and has already arrived in the Washington area.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is expected to attend as well.
The Saudi king will likely call President Barack Obama on May 11 to talk about his decision not to attend the summit, the New York Times reported citing an anonymous White House official.
King Salman, who came to power in January, has not travelled outside of Saudi Arabia since assuming the throne.
President Barack Obama has dismissed a speech by Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu that castigated his policy towards Iran.
In a speech to the US Congress, Benjamin Netanyahu warned that a deal under discussion on Iran’s nuclear program could “pave Iran’s path to the bomb” rather than block it.
Barack Obama said Benjamin Netanyahu had offered no viable alternative.
Other senior Democrats – and Iran – also criticized Benjamin Netanyahu.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit was controversial from the start, because Republican speaker John Boehner invited him without consulting the White House.
President Barack Obama announced he would not meet Benjamin Netanyahu, who is fighting in a closely contested national election in just two weeks’ time.
Talks on Iran’s nuclear program are nearing a critical late-March deadline for an outline agreement to be reached.
In a speech to the Congress regularly punctuated by standing ovations Benjamin Netanyahu depicted Iran as a “threat to the entire world”.
He insisted Iran had proven time and time again that it could not be trusted.
Benjamin Netanyahu went on to criticize the likely contours of the deal currently being negotiated in Switzerland, where Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met Secretary of State John Kerry on March 3.
“We’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal,” he said.
“Well this is a bad deal, a very bad deal, We’re better off without it.”
Benjamin Netanyahu said it relied heavily on international monitoring, when Iran “plays a pretty good game of <<hide and cheat>> with UN inspectors”.
The Israeli prime minister received a rapturous reception for his speech, but dozens of Democrats – including Vice President Joe Biden – stayed away.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi at times refused to clap and later issued a statement saying Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech had been an “insult to the intelligence of the United States” that had left her near tears.
Barack Obama said he had been unable to watch the speech as it was given, but found “nothing new” when he read the transcript.
“The alternative that the prime minister offers is <<no deal>>, in which case Iran will immediately begin once again pursuing its nuclear program, accelerate its nuclear program without us having any insight into what they are doing and without constraint,” he said.
The president said sanctions alone were not sufficient without offering Iran an alternative path.
Other Democrats criticized the speech, with Representative John Yarmuth calling it “straight out of the Dick Cheney playbook – fear mongering at its worst”.
Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry said Benjamin Netanyahu’s words were “boring and repetitive”, Fars news agency reported.
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the “Iranophobic” speech was a “deceitful show and part of the election campaign of Tel Aviv’s hardliners”.
The US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China are seeking to reach agreement to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
They fear Iran has ambitions to build a nuclear bomb – something Iran denies, insisting it is merely exercising its right to peaceful nuclear power.
Negotiators are currently working towards a late-March deadline for an outline agreement with Iran, which would be followed by a detailed deal by the end of June.