Trump ignores pleas and dumps Iran deal

Steve Holland and Yara Bayoumy
Donald Trump has withdrawn the US from the Iran nuclear deal he called "defective at its core"

President Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, raising the risk of conflict in the Middle East, upsetting European allies and casting uncertainty over global oil supplies.

Trump said in a televised address from the White House on Tuesday that he will reimpose US economic sanctions on Iran to undermine "a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made".

The 2015 agreement, devised by the US, five other world powers and Iran, lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. The pact was designed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

But Trump complained the Obama-era accord did not address Iran's ballistic missile program, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

Trump's decision intensifies the strain on the trans-Atlantic alliance since he took office 16 months ago. One by one, European leaders came to Washington and tried to meet his demands, while pleading with him to preserve the deal.

But by the middle of last week it had become clear to some diplomats that Trump would not be moved.

"We felt like we were going through the motions," said a person close to the negotiations.

Even Trump's top aides had not been seeking aggressively to talk Trump out of withdrawing because his mind had been made up, a White House official said.

The Trump administration kept the door open to negotiating another deal with allies, but it is far from clear if the Europeans would go for that and if they could convince Iran to accept it.

The leaders of Britain, Germany and France, which were signatories to the deal along with China and Russia, said in a joint statement that Trump's decision was a cause for "regret and concern."

A Western diplomat was more pointed.

"It announces sanctions for which the first victims will be Trump's European allies," the diplomat said, adding that it was clear Trump did not care about the alliance.

Abandoning the Iran pact was one of the most consequential decisions of Trump's high-stakes "America First" policy, which has led him to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, come close to a trade war with China and pull out of an Asia-Pacific trade deal.

Trump had reluctantly been granting Iran sanctions relief every few months and by middle of 2017 was already furious at aides for trying to persuade him to stay in the deal, a source said.

Bolton told reporters on Tuesday that Trump did not withdraw from the agreement until now "because he gave repeated opportunities to try to fix the deal."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that Iran would remain in the deal without Washington. Nevertheless, Trump's decision to exit the deal could tip the balance of power in favour of hardliners looking to constrain Rouhani's ability to open up to the West.

Iran denies it has tried to build atomic weapons and says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. UN inspectors say Iran has not broken the nuclear deal and senior US officials themselves have said several times that Iran is in technical compliance with the pact.