United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday withdrew the United States of America from the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA deal with Iran, a move which could allow the middle-east country to resume enrichment of uranium. Trump, a long-time critic of the 2015 landmark US-Iran nuclear deal, said, “It is clear to me that we cannot prevent Iran nuclear bomb. The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know what will happen. In just a short time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons. Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”

Asserting that the “disastrous” deal gave Iran millions in cash and did not prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, Trump signed a fresh set of sanctions against the country and warned countries against any cooperation with Tehran on its controversial nuclear weapons programme. “The fact is, this was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will,” he said.

What Donald Trump said?
Describing the agreement, which was negotiated by then US secretary of state John Kerry, as a bad deal, Trump alleged that Iran’s promise of abandoning its ambition to develop nuclear weapons was a lie. “Allowing the deal to stay would result in an arms race in the region and the deal does nothing to constrain Iran’s “destabilizing behavior,” he said.

Before Trump’s announcement in this regard, which was televised live, top administration officials including Vice President Mike Pence Informed Congress about his decision. Referring to his consultation with key American allies, Trump said it is that they cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the “decaying and rotten” structure of the current agreement. “If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons,” he said.

The US president further said, “We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States. America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction, and we will not allow a regime that chants ‘Death to America’ to gain access to the most deadly weapons on earth.”

 “The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran. It exchanged for very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity and no limits at all on its other maligned behavior,” he alleged.

Trump went on to say, “In theory, the so-called Iran deal was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon that will only endanger the survival of the Iranian regime.”

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s reacts
Reacting to Trump’s announcement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday said he would send his foreign minister to negotiate with countries remaining in the nuclear deal after Donald Trump’s decision to pull America from the deal. He, however, warned that Iran would restart enriching uranium “in the next weeks” if the deal doesn’t survive.

Stressing that the deal could survive without the US, Rouhani said, “If at the end of this short period, we’ve conclude that we are able to achieve our demands in the deal, the deal will survive.”

Former US president Barack Obama called Trump’s announcement a ‘serious mistake’ and said that the deal negotiated by his administration had worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear programme. “I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake,” Obama said.

Obama said the Iranian nuclear deal was a signature foreign policy accomplishment of his administration. “Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East,” he said.

The former president said, “If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear programme under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat or going to war to prevent it.”  In a dangerous world, Obama said, America must be able to rely in part on strong, principled diplomacy to secure its country. “We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe,” he said.

Top American allies regret US withdrawal from Iranian nuclear deal
Soon after Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, top American allies, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada expressed concerns over his decision and emphasized their continued commitment to the JPCOA. “It is with regret and concern that we, the leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom take note of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States of America from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, in a joint statement.

Meanwhile, Russia and Syria strongly condemned Trump’s decision. However, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support for it saying, “Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision today to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran.”

Why the United States negotiated the JCPOA
Obama said there were few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons or the potential for an even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the JCPOA in the first place, he said, in probably his first statement on foreign policy after he left the White House in January 2017.  “The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current US secretary of defence,” he said, adding that the JCPOA is in America’s interest – it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear programme.

“And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish – its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes – with Iran – the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans,” he said.

What is JCPOA?
Barack Obama explains the nitty-gritties of JCPOA.

“First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the UK, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a UNSC Resolution,” Obama said.

“Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear programme.” Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran had destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 per cent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, he said.

 “Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust – it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away,” Obama said.

Fourth, Iran was complying with the JCPOA, he asserted. “That was not simply the view of my administration. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),” he said.

Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire, Obama said, adding, “The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until 10, 15, 20 or 25 years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.”

The Iran nuclear deal was signed between Iran and the P5 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council) plus Germany and the European Union in Vienna in July 2015.

(Adapted from The Hindu)