Congressional negotiators and European allies have one “last chance” to agree on new policies to confront Iran before President Trump withdraws from the nuclear deal, he warned Friday.
“I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said in a Friday afternoon statement.
“This is a last chance. In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately.”
Trump’s warning is a victory for Iran hawks, despite his decision to continue waiving the nuclear sanctions. It sets out a series of major policy changes designed to enhance inspections of the regime’s nuclear program while rolling back the ballistic missile program that could be used to launch nuclear weapons.
“[A]ny bill I sign must include four critical components,” he said. “First, it must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors. Second, it must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon. Third, unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date . . . Fourth, the legislation must explicitly state in United States law — for the first time — that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.”
That could strengthen the hand of Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and other lawmakers trying to negotiate new legislation adjusting American policy toward Iran. A leading congressional Democrat protested, however, that Trump is “set[ting] impossible standards” that will lead to the United States withdrawing from the deal unilaterally.
“That scenario would allow Iran to rush headlong toward a bomb while harming American credibility and leadership on the global stage,” New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said Friday. “I’m all in favor of trying to address the agreement’s weaknesses. But the way to do so is to engage with international partners and build momentum to negotiate new provisions. The wrong approach is to bully countries with arbitrary and unenforceable deadlines."
Trump also warned that countries have to decide whether they're working with the U.S. to change the deal, or against it. "I hereby call on key European countries to join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal, countering Iranian aggression, and supporting the Iranian people," he said. "If other nations fail to act during this time, I will terminate our deal with Iran. Those who, for whatever reason, choose not to work with us will be siding with the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions, and against the people of Iran and the peaceful nations of the world.”