United States President Donald Trump has kept alive the Iran nuclear deal by waiving economic sanctions, but warned European allies and Congress that it will be "for the last time" if they fail to fix the "disastrous flaws" in the landmark 2015 pact.
The White House said that Trump will waive the sanctions against Iran for the "last time", unless an agreement can be reached between the US and Europe within the next 120 days that would strengthen the nuclear deal.
"Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the US from the Iran nuclear deal," Trump said in a statement.
He told the international community, in particular his European allies, either to fix the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or he would withdraw the US from the nuclear deal.
"Instead, I have outlined two possible paths forward: either fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw," he said.
"This is the last chance. In absence of such an agreement (between the US and European powers), the US will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal," he said in a lenghty statement.
The announcement came as the Treasury Department placed sanctions on 14 individuals and entities for alleged offenses unrelated to Iran’s nuclear industry. The new measures concern human rights abuses and censorship in Iran and the arming of groups throughout the region.
Issuing designations for 14 individuals and entities, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the US will not stand by while the Iranian regime continues to engage in human rights abuses and injustice.
The entities sanctioned include Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace and its subsidiary, the National Cyberspace Center, which police the Internet, restricting access to websites that challenge the regime.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif describe Trump's decision as "desperate attempt" to "undermine" the deal.
"Trump’s policy & today’s announcement amount to desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement,” he tweeted.
He said the nuclear deal is "not renegotiable and rather than repeating tired rhetoric, the US must bring itself into full compliance -just like Iran."
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal was struck between the US, under the administration of former President Barack Obama, Iran and five other countries. It prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons while offering sanctions relief to allow it to participate in international commerce and banking.
As a signatory to the international Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has committed to not building nuclear weapons, even after the restrictions on its programme lapse, and it is entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
To keep the 2015 deal alive before he is required to sign another waiver in 120 days from now, Trump outlined four "critical components" that must be included in US legislation regarding Iran.
Trump outlined four "critical components" that must be included in US legislation regarding Iran.
The changes Trump has demanded include immediate inspections at all sites requested by the International Atomic Energy Agency; ensuring that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon; automatic resumption of US sanctions if Iran does not comply and Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.
Trump said he is open to working with Congress on bipartisan legislation regarding Iran. But any bill he sign must include these four critical components.
"I have been very clear about my opinion of that deal. It gave Iran far too much in exchange for far too little. The enormous financial windfall the Iranian regime received because of the deal -- access to more than USD 100 billion, including USD 1.8 billion in cash -- has not been used to better the lives of the Iranian people. Instead, it has served as a slush fund for weapons, terror, and oppression, and to further line the pockets of corrupt regime leaders,” he said.
In his statement, Trump said he is waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure US’s European allies’ agreement to fix the "terrible flaws" of the Iran nuclear deal.
"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 warned, adding that no one should doubt his words.
"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,” Trump said.
Trump alleged that in 2015, the Obama Administration "foolishly traded away" strong multilateral sanctions to get its weak nuclear deal.
“By contrast, my Administration has engaged with key European allies in seeking to secure a new supplemental agreement that would impose new multilateral sanctions if Iran develops or tests long-range missiles, thwarts inspections, or makes progress toward a nuclear weapon -- requirements that should have been in the nuclear deal in the first place,” he said.
Trump alleged that Iranian regime is the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and enables Hezbollah, Hamas, and many other terrorists to sow chaos and kill innocent people.
"It has funded, armed, and trained more than 100,000 militants to spread destruction across the Middle East. It props up the murderous regime of Bashar al Assad, and has helped him slaughter his own people," he said.
"The regime’s destructive missiles threaten neighbouring countries and international shipping. Within Iran, the Supreme Leader and his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps use mass arrests and torture to oppress and silence Iran’s people. Iran’s ruling elite has let their citizens go hungry while enriching themselves by stealing Iran’s national wealth," said the US President.
The US, he said, is countering Iranian proxy wars in Yemen and Syria.
"We are cutting off the regime’s money flows to terrorists. We have sanctioned nearly 100 individuals and entities involved with the Iranian regime’s ballistic missile program and its other illicit activities,” he said.
Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters