President Trump on Tuesday delivered a short speech about his decision to withdraw the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
The controversial deal, negotiated by Obama and our allies, gave the Iranian regime access to billions of dollars it has since used to fund terror and sow chaos in the Middle East. The deal did not stop Iran’s ballistic missile program or its proxy wars in Yemen and Syria.
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled documents suggesting Iran sought nuclear weapons in the past but gave up more than 10 years ago. Trump in his speech claimed these documents showed “definitive proof” Iran had violated the JCPOA.
His opinion is a departure from US intelligence, the IAEA, and the JCPOA’s other signatories – who all claim Iran has not violated the provisions of the deal. Even Sec. of State Mike Pompeo recently confirmed he had no reason to believe Iran violated the deal.
World leaders warned Trump that pulling out of the deal would give hardliners in Iran the perfect excuse to resume uranium enrichment and pursue nuclear development. They also said the deal – while not perfect – allowed us to monitor Iran’s behavior. Without the deal, we have no ability whatsoever (aside from intelligence) to find out what they are up to.
Trump in his speech said Iran would be “on the brink” of having a nuclear weapon when the JCPOA’s restrictions on nuclear enrichment end in 2025. The situation could create an arms race in the Middle East, he added.
“It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” said Trump. “The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing we know exactly what will happen.”
The key takeaway from Trump’s speech is that his decision to pull out of the deal is not about Iran’s compliance – it’s about ending a deal that did nothing to stop Iran from pursing a nuclear weapon. It’s also about keeping a promise.
Trump from the very beginning said the JCPOA was a bad deal and that if he were elected he would put an end to it. In October he said he would pull out by May 12th if certain restrictions were not added to the deal (he knew this would not happen). Trump reiterated his promise in January and made true on it today.
Trump also made it clear the US would reinstate nuclear sanctions on Iran and would be forced to sanction any allies who assist Iran in obtaining a nuclear weapon. This is unlikely to occur, however, as Iran has already promised to exit the deal should the US “violate” the deal by withdrawing.
More than anything else, Trump’s decision represents a campaign promise and solidifies America’s position as a leader – not a follower – among its allies.
Trump at the end of his speech said he would be willing to negotiate a better deal, but knows Iran will refuse to do so. He also reminded listeners about his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un and said that Sec. of State Pompeo would be traveling to North Korea this week to make preparations for the meeting.