Trump takes first step to revoking Iran agreement

US president claims ‘very real threat’ of Iranian ‘nuclear breakout’

US president Donald Trump has taken the first step towards revoking the Iran nuclear agreement, decertifying the 2015 deal but leaving a final decision on reimposing sanctions to Congress.

In a highly-anticipated address to the nation Mr Trump said Iran had committed “multiple violations of the agreement” and had intimidated international weapons inspectors.

As a result he was decertifying the deal and tasking Congress with addressing the “serious flaws” of the agreement, he said. But he warned that he would scrap the deal if changes to the agreement were not made.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” he said.


The announcement marks a major shift in US foreign policy towards Iran, and undermines one of the key achievements of President Barack Obama.

The landmark 2015 agreement with Iran was negotiated by seven countries including the United States, and saw Iran curtail uranium enrichment and open its nuclear sites to UN weapons inspectors in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

But Mr Trump lambasted the deal during his presidential campaign, dismissing it as the “worst deal ever”.

‘Baseless accusations’

In a television address on Friday, Iran's president Hassan Rouhani accused Mr Trump of making "baseless accusations", and urged Mr Trump to learn about "history, geography, commitments to international treaties, ethics and international norms".

Mr Trump’s announcement has thrown the future of the nuclear agreement into doubt and sowed confusion among European allies.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the agreement remained in place. "This deal is not a bilateral agreement ... The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will, continue to be in place," she said.

In a rare joint statement, British prime minister Theresa May, German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron said they "stand committed" to the 2015 deal and that preserving it was "in our shared national security interest".

"The nuclear deal was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes," they said, noting that the agreement had been endorsed by the United Nations security council.

The last few weeks had seen a concerted diplomatic effort by European representatives in Washington to outline the benefits of the deal, with the ambassadors of Britain, Germany and France, as well as EU ambassador David O'Sullivan, meeting with senior figures in Congress to press their case.

While technically the Iran deal remains in place, Trump has tasked Congress to come up with “trigger points” that, if breached by Iran, would prompt Congress to reimpose sanctions.

Military sites

In particular, critics of the deal are unhappy with the agreement’s sunset clause which may allow Iran to resume nuclear activity after 2025. They also argue that international weapons inspectors have found it difficult to gain immediate access to military sites. In addition, the administration wants Iran’s wider activities in the region – including its support for terrorist organisations such as Hizbullah – to be considered. Currently they are not covered by the nuclear agreement, which focuses solely on Iran’s nuclear activity.

Mr Trump also announced new sanctions on Iran’s revolutionary guard corps.

In a fiery speech that began with a lengthy exposition of the list of Iran’s misdemeanours since 1979, Mr Trump accused Iran of being the world’s “leading state sponsor of terrorism” which is run by a “fanatical regime”.

“History has shown that the longer we ignore a threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes,” he said.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent