President Donald Trump launched a tougher strategy to check Iran’s “fanatical regime” on Friday and warned that a landmark international nuclear deal could be terminated at any time.
In a much-anticipated White House speech, Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the 2015 accord, but “decertified” his support for the agreement and left its fate in the hands of Congress.
And, outlining the results of a review of efforts to counter Tehran’s “aggression” in a series of Middle East conflicts, Trump ordered tougher sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps and on its ballistic missile program.
Trump said the agreement, which defenders say was only ever meant to curtail Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, had failed to address Iranian subversion in its region and its illegal missile program.
The US president said he supports efforts in Congress to work on new measures to address these threats without immediately torpedoing the broader deal.
“However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said, in a televised address from the Diplomatic Room of the White House.
“It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time,” he warned.
Simultaneously, the US Treasury said it had taken action against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards under a 2001 executive order to hit sources of terror funding and added four companies that allegedly support the group to its sanctions list.
Trump’s criticism of the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the nuclear control accord reached between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — had raised global concerns.
World governments feared any US move to sabotage the arrangement could dash Washington’s diplomatic credibility and relaunch Iran’s alleged quest for a nuclear weapon, in turn provoking a new Middle East arms race.
But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made clear ahead of the president’s speech that his decision does not necessarily mean an end to the accord.
“The intent is that we will stay in the JCPOA, but the president is going to decertify,” Tillerson said.
“We’re saying, fine, they’re meeting the technical compliance,” he said, indicating that the broader agreement would remain intact for now, and that US lawmakers will have an opportunity to revisit the US sanctions regime.