President Donald Trump on Monday renewed his threat to fully withdraw the United States from the landmark Iran nuclear deal, while holding out the possibility that fixes to the accord may prevent an American pullout.
Justifying his decision last week to decertify the 2015 pact under U.S. law, Trump said the United States had been taken advantage of in negotiations the Obama administration conducted and that he was tired of it. He said that’s why he refused to confirm to Congress that the deal is in America’s national security interest.
Trump decertified the pact on the grounds that Iran had committed several violations of the deal and is receiving disproportionate relief from international sanctions for the concessions it made. But he did not announce a withdrawal from the agreement. Instead, he kicked the future of U.S. participation to Congress.
“I feel strongly about what I did,” Trump told reporters at a meeting of his Cabinet in the White House on Monday. “I’m tired of being taken advantage of as a nation. This nation has been taken advantage of for many, many years, for many decades, frankly, and I’m tired of watching it. But the Iran deal was something that I felt had to be done.”
Lawmakers now have 60 days to snap back sanctions on Iran that had been suspended, keep the status quo or, as the Trump administration has suggested, amend or replace the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act — which compels the president to reaffirm Iran’s compliance with the deal ever 90 days. The law’s requirements could be broadened so that sanctions relief for Iran is contingent on things beyond the nuclear deal, such as Tehran halting ballistic missile testing.
At the same time, the administration is pressing the other nations in the nuclear agreement to fix what Trump believes are fatal flaws, including the expiration of some restrictions on nuclear activity under so-called “sunset provisions.” In addition to Iran, the deal’s other parties are Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union.
Trump referred to the lobbying effort with Congress and the other governments as “Phase 2.” He said a failure to achieve either or both could lead him to pull out.
“We’ll see what Phase 2 is. Phase 2 might be positive and it might be very negative. It might be a total termination. That’s a very real possibility. Some would say that’s a greater possibility. But it also could turn out to be very positive. We’ll see what happens.”
Congress is currently drafting legislation that could alter the existing law but it remains unclear if it could pass.
All the other nations in the deal say it is working and there is no reason to reopen it. However, France has signaled a willingness to try to supplement the accord with side agreements that would address concerns about Iranian nuclear restrictions that begin expiring next decade.
This story has been corrected to show that the 4th paragraph quote to ‘I feel strongly about what I did.’