European powers try to save Iran N-deal after US exit

Washington: European powers have pledged their “continuing commitment” to the Iran nuclear deal after President Donald Trump announced the US’ withdrawal from the 2015 “horrible, one-sided” pact rooted in “fiction”.

Following Trump’s widely expected decision on Tuesday night, the UK, France and Germany urged Washington not to obstruct the implementation of the Iran deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

They said they would work with the other signatories to the agreement — Russia and China — to stress continuing support for the accord. Iran, in the 2015 pact with the world powers, had agreed to halt its nuclear programme in return for an easing of economic sanctions.

Reacting to Trump’s move, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his government remained committed to the nuclear deal with world powers, despite the US’ withdrawal. But he warned that Iran “was also ready to resume uranium enrichment if the accord no longer offered benefits”.

Rouhani said he had directed his diplomats to negotiate with the deal’s remaining signatories – including the European countries, Russia and China. He said the agreement could survive without the US.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would “spearhead a diplomatic effort to examine whether remaining JCPOA participants can ensure its full benefits for Iran”.

In the Iranian Parliament, members burned an American flag and the Speaker reportedly said that Trump lacked “mental capacity”.

In a televised address, Trump said the US would withdraw from the “horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made” and that economic sanctions against Tehran would be reinstated.

Rather than protecting the US and its allies, he said it had placed “very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity and no limits at all on its other malign behaviour, including its sinister activities in Syria, Yemen and other places”.

He called the agreement “decaying and rotten” and “defective at its core”.

However, the US allies have stood firmly behind the accord but they could also suffer penalties under renewed US sanctions, removing incentives to continue to do business with Iran.

“This resolution remains the binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute about the Iranian nuclear programme,” British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in their statement.

“We urge all sides to remain committed to its full implementation and to act in a spirit of responsibility.”

Russia said it was “deeply disappointed” by Trump’s decision. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian insisted the deal was “not dead” and said there would be a meeting between France, Britain, Germany and Iran on Monday.

Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, under whose administration the deal was signed, said in a Facebook post that Trump’s announcement was “misguided” and “a serious mistake”.

“The JCPOA is working,” Obama said, adding that “the US could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East” without the landmark deal.

Europe will abide by the JCPOA, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

But the move was welcomed by Iran’s major regional rivals, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “fully supported” Trump’s withdrawal.

Experts from the Washington-based Arms Control Association also denounced the decision. Daryl G. Kimball, the group’s executive director, said Trump’s announcement “is an irresponsible act of foreign policy malpractice” and “a two-fold abrogation of US commitments.”