World leaders were quick to react to US President Donald Trump’s decision to not certify an international deal on Iran’s nuclear programme.
The 2015 deal, reached between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union (EU), saw Tehran curtailing its nuclear programme in exchange for the easing of crippling economic sanctions.
In a White House address on Friday, US President Donald Trump struck a blow against the accord in defiance of other world powers, and despite the UN nuclear watchdog repeatedly confirming that Iran was complying with its obligations under 2015’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Trump’s move does not amount to a withdrawal from the deal, but instead pushes action to US Congress, which could reimpose sanctions that were lifted under the JCPOA.
He stressed, however, that if a deal cannot be reached with Congress or US allies, he will walk away from the accord.
Trump’s speech drew sharp criticism from US allies in Europe, as well as Iran and Russia, with leaders saying they would stick by the landmark pact.
“We encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement,” French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a joint statement.
In Brussels, Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, said the Iran deal is an international agreement and “it is not up to any single country to terminate it”.
She added: “It is not a bilateral agreement, it does not belong to any single country … The president of the United States has many powers – not this one.”
In a statement after Trump’s speech, Russia’s foreign ministry said there was no place in international diplomacy for threatening and aggressive rhetoric, adding that such methods were doomed to fail.
The ministry said Trump’s decision to de-certify the deal would not have a direct impact on implementation of the agreement but that it ran counter to its spirit.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “very much hopes” the nuclear deal with Iran can be salvaged, his spokesman said.
Stephane Dujarric said Guterres considers the deal to be a “very important breakthrough to consolidate nuclear non-proliferation and advance global peace and security”.
“The secretary-general very much hopes that it will remain in place,” Dujarric added.
Also reacting to Trump’s speech, Yukiya Amano, chief of the UN atomic watchdog, reiterated that Iran was under the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime”.
“The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented,” said Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Inside the US, Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, called Trump’s move “a grave mistake” that threatens the country’s security and credibility.
Pelosi said Trump ignored “the overwhelming consensus of nuclear scientists, national security experts, generals and his own cabinet, including, reportedly, his secretary of defense and secretary of state”.
Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told a Senate committee last week that it is in the national security interests of the US to stay a part of the international accord.
Pelosi said Washington’s allies in Europe have no intention of leaving the seven-nation pact, adding that if Trump’s judgment leads to an unraveling of the deal, it will be the US that’s isolated, not Iran.
Israel, Saudi Arabia praise Trump
Trump, however, got support from Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“President Trump has just created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement.
Saudi Arabia also welcomed what it called Trump’s “decisive strategy” towards Iran and alleged lifting sanctions had allowed Tehran to develop its ballistic missile programme, step up its support for groups including Hezbollah and Houthi rebels in Yemen, and attack global shipping lanes.
The Riyadh government said in a statement it had supported the nuclear agreement, “but Iran took advantage of the economic gain from raising sanctions and used it to continue destabilizing the region”.
It said it would continue to work with allies to achieve the goals announced by Trump and end Iran’s “hostile activities”.