• Donald Trump unveils tough new stance on Iran
• US President refuses to certify Iran nuclear deal
• Kicks issue to Congress to decide whether to impose new nuclear sanctions
• Imposes sanctions on Revolutionary Guard Corps
• Theresa May and European leaders express concern for nuclear deal
Donald Trump was reprimanded by world leaders and warned he could trigger war on Friday after refusing to certify the Iran nuclear deal.
The US President announced that he thought Iran was breaching the spirit of the 2015 agreement and demanded tougher restrictions.
He tasked Congress with agreeing a series of new “trigger points” which if crossed would lead to the re-imposition of sanctions.
Mr Trump fell short of scrapping the deal in its entirety - a campaign pledge - but made clear he was willing to walk away if no improvements are made.
The decision sparked an immediate backlash from world leaders who have been intensely lobbying Mr Trump to commit to the deal.
Theresa May, Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron issued a rare joint statement reiterating their belief in the agreement. It said the Iran deal was in their countries’ “shared national security interest” and added they were “concerned by the possible implications” of Mr Trump’s announcement.
European Union leaders were also critical while Israel’s intelligence minister when asked if the move could trigger war with Iran said: “Absolutely, yes.”
Mr Trump’s intervention marks the culmination of nine months of thinking in the White House about its stance on the Iran nuclear agreement.
The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was struck by Barack Obama in 2015 and agreed to lift sanctions on Iran in return for it not pursuing nuclear weapons.
Mr Trump repeatedly criticised the agreement in his election campaign, dubbing it the “worst deal ever” and pledging to scrap it if he won office. However since entering the White House he has faced a backlash from allies and senior advisers who believe the deal remains in America’s interests.
Speaking from the White House on Friday, Mr Trump announced a compromise position designed to pile pressure on Iran to change its behaviour.
Mr Trump said he would not certify the deal - something that the President must do every 90 days, according to rules agreed by Congress at the time - but not scrap the agreement.
“The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” Mr Trump said.
He added: “We got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.”
Mr Trump said the agreement had provided a “political and economic lifeline” to Iran and stopped the regime from imminent collapse.
He called on Congress to agree new “trigger points” that if crossed by Iran would mean new sanctions would be reapplied immediately.
These would include ending so-called “sunset clauses”, which Mr Trump said would allow Iran to continue pursuing nuclear weapons in a few years.
Alongside the announcement, Mr Trump also imposed sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which he said was helping terrorists.
The strategy is designed to curb Iran’s ballistic missile tests and support of terrorist groups in the Middle East as well as stopping its nuclear ambitions.
Mr Trump said that if Congress failed to agree tougher requirements for Iran then he could still walk away from the deal entirely.
“In the event we are not able to reach with a solution working with Congress and our allies then the agreement will be terminated,” he said. “It is under continuous review and our participation can be cancelled by me as President at any time.
“As we have seen in North Korea, the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes.
“It is why we are determined that the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism will never obtain nuclear weapons.”
The intervention - which marks a major shift in America’s Iranian policy - was criticised by a string of world leaders.
The statement from Mrs May, Mrs Merkel and Mr Macron read: “We stand committed to the JCPoA and its full implementation by all sides. Preserving the JCPoA is in our shared national security interest."
The EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini said that the Iran nuclear deal was "working and delivering", insisting Mr Trump did not have the power to terminate it.
"We cannot afford as an international community, as Europe for sure, to dismantle an agreement that is working and delivering,” she said.
Israel Katz, Israel's intelligence minister, said: “I think that the speech was very significant. Iran is the new North Korea. We see where things are goings.”
However other figures in the Middle East - including Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and leaders in Saudi Arabia - welcomed the move.
These so-called “trigger points” are expected to include Iran’s nuclear behaviour but also its ballistic missile testing - something not covered in the initial agreement.
The changes will be proposed in an amendment to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act - a piece of US legislation.
Mr Tillerson said the decision was part of a comprehensive review of Iran’s behaviour, including its links to terrorism in the regime.
The US administration will also attempt to disrupt funding to parts of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which America claims is helping terrorist groups.
A White House spokesman said: “The United States’ new Iran strategy focuses on neutralising the government of Iran’s destabilising influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants.
“We will revitalise our traditional alliances and regional partnerships as bulwarks against Iranian subversion and restore a more stable balance of power in the region.”
What's at stake...
Michael Axworthy, who served as head of the Iran section at the Foreign Office 1998–2000, has a withering assessment of Mr Trump's stance on Iran
Trump often refers to history, in his scattergun way; he called the Nafta trade deal the worst trade deal in history, and the JCPOA “the worst deal”.
A moment’s thought about some of the other agreements that have been signed in the past – Munich springs to mind – shows how absurd those comments are. Someone who apparently does not read books, as Trump himself says, might be more reticent about historical pronouncements. But if Trump knows little of history, history is, unfortunately, going to be bothered with him.
And acting to destroy the Iran nuclear deal is likely to go down as one of the most stupid things an American President has ever done.
Iran's Rouhani says no single nation can change nuclear deal
Iran’s President Rouhani says US President Trump’s nuclear deal speech was full of insults and baseless allegations https://t.co/KrOFJEbDCa— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 13, 2017
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran accused Mr Trump of delivering insults and baseless accusations in his speech. He said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was essential for defending his nation against terrorism and that popular chants - "Death to America" was singled out by Mr Trump as evidence of Iran's hatred - were not directed at the American people but US policies.
He said the US "is more isolated than ever" and could not unilaterally change the deal.
Trump: Iran should have thanked Obama for $1.7 billion in cash
Donald Trump added some more comments on Iran as he left the White House for Beltsville, Maryland.
We will see what happens with Iran. Were very unhappy with Iran. They have not treated us with the kind of respect that they should be treating... They should have thanked Barack Obama for making that kind of deal. They were gone. They were economically gone. He gave them 1.7 billion in cash, and they should be: 'Thank you, President Obama.' They didn't say that.
Fact check: The Obama regime did indeed send the money which was a payment for a 1970s weapons deal that had been blocked for decades by sanctions.
Labour condemns 'wanton vandalism'
Emily Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary, said Mr Trump's stance was reckless.
It is an act of wanton vandalism for Donald Trump to jeopardise the future of that deal today, and to move the goalposts by linking it to important but utterly extraneous issues around Iran's wider activities in the region.
It is also totally disingenuous to suggest that the deal just needs to be fixed, when the only evidence that it is any way broken is inside Donald Trump's head.
Pentagon weighs options
Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters the Pentagon was assessing the positioning of its forces as well as planning but offered few details after Mr Trump promised a more confrontational response.
"We are identifying new areas where we will work with allies to put pressure on the Iranian regime, neutralize its destabilizing influences, and constrain its aggressive power projection, particularly its support for terrorist groups and militants," he said.
Benjamin Netanyahu praises Trump for 'boldly confronting' Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Mr Trump for his speech, seeing an opportunity to change the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran as well as Iranian conduct in the region.
"He boldly confronted Iran's terrorist regime (and) created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran's aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism," he said in a Facebook video.
European leaders express concern for future of nuclear deal
In a joint statement, Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have reiterated their commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - as the Iran nuclear deal is formally known - and urged the US to think hard before taking further steps that might undermine it further
We, the Leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom take note of President Trump’s decision not to recertify Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to Congress and are concerned by the possible implications.
We stand committed to the JCPoA and its full implementation by all sides. Preserving the JCPoA is 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 Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes. The JCPoA was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in Resolution 2231. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPoA through its long-term verification and monitoring programme. Therefore, 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.
At the same time as we work to preserve the JCPoA, we share concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile programme and regional activities that also affect our European security interests. We stand ready to take further appropriate measures to address these issues in close cooperation with the US and all relevant partners. We look to Iran to engage in constructive dialogue to stop de-stabilising actions and work towards negotiated solutions.
John McCain welcomes 'long overdue change'
John McCain, one of the most influential Republicans on foreign policy, has been a frequent critic of Donald Trump. Not today.
The goals President Trump presented in his speech today are a welcomed long overdue change. They offer the United States a path forward that centers our policy towards Iran on its destabilizing regional ambitions rather than its nuclear program alone. I look forward to learning more about the specifics of this strategy, and the Senate Armed Services Committee will conduct thorough oversight of our military’s role in it.
Joe Biden warns of US isolation
Unilaterally putting the Iran deal at risk does not isolate Iran. It isolates us: https://t.co/Cj1zu126bb— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 13, 2017
Saudi Arabia praises stance
Saudi Arabia welcomed the new US policy towards Iran and said lifting sanctions had allowed Iran to develop its ballistic missile program and step up its support for militant groups, state news agency SPA reported on Friday.
The kingdom said Iran took advantage of additional financial revenues to support for the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah and the Houthi group in Yemen.
EU says nuclear deal remains in place
Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, has given her reaction, saying the eight inspections have so far shown Iran in compliance with the nuclear deal.
"There have been no violations of any of the commitments included in the agreement," she said.
"The deal has prevented and continues to prvenet Iran from developing nuclear weapons."
She added that the US President has many powers but that no single country has the authority to nullify the deal.
"The international community, and the E U with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is - and will continue to be - in place," she said.
Where does this leave the IRGC?
A lot of confusion about what has changed with US stance towards the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In advance briefings, officials said they would stop short of designating it a foreign terrorist organisation. But the language from the US Treasury sounds as if it has gone the whole way.
Trump administration to sanction Iran's IRGC in its *entirety* for supporting terrorism and the Qods Force, say senior U.S. officials.— Mark Dubowitz (@mdubowitz) October 13, 2017
The IRGC is already heavily sanctioned. Not clear these new designations will have any practical effect.— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) October 13, 2017
Praise for Trump's tough talk
@POTUS keeps promise & pushes back on Iran deal that should never have been made. Appeasement no longer US policy.— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) October 13, 2017
The Iran blunder was Obama’s. He strengthened an enemy and obliterated sanctions without building the consensus the treaty process requires— David French (@DavidAFrench) October 13, 2017
Mr Trump's 90-day cycle of embarrassment
Mr Trump's words today seem to be something of a fudge after he backed himself into a corner by denouncing the Iran agreement during the election campaign as the worst deal in America's history.
As President he has to certify the deal every 90 days, putting him in a painful position when all indications are that Iran is in compliance. Unable to rip up the agreement and unwilling to approve it, Mr Trump has instead punted it to Congress for them to consider the next step. In all likelihood, it will not impose fresh sanctions leaving the deal in place and the clock ticking to the next deadline when Mr Trump is faced with certifying the deal again.
In the meantime, expect rapid moves to build in those automatic triggers that would essentially take certification out of the President's hands.
Nothing would change, except that Mr Trump is spared the agony of having to publicly endorse a deal he railed against.
Sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard Corps
More on the US Treasury's move to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps - a major part of the country's regime and economy - as a supporter of terrorist organisations.
Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, said:
The IRGC has played a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror. Iran’s pursuit of power comes at the cost of regional stability, and Treasury will continue using its authorities to disrupt the IRGC’s destructive activities.
We are designating the IRGC for providing support to the IRGC-QF, the key Iranian entity enabling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s relentless campaign of brutal violence against his own people, as well as the lethal activities of Hizballah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups. We urge the private sector to recognize that the IRGC permeates much of the Iranian economy, and those who transact with IRGC-controlled companies do so at great risk.
Mr Trump says he cannot certify deal
Mr Trump says Iran's "dangerous aggression" has only increased since the 2015 nuclear deal as he goes on to announce that he will not certify Tehran's compliance.
"Based on the factual record I have put forward, I am announcing that we cannot and will not make this certification. We will not continue down a path whose predictable outcome" is more terror and violence as well as an Iranian nuclear weapon," he said
Iran is not living up to the spirit of the nuclear deal, says Mr Trump, announcing a four-pronged strategy.
- Work with allies to counter destablising activities
- Place additional sanctions on regime
- Address proliferation of missiles that threaten neighbours
- Deny regime all paths to nuclear weapon
'I wonder where all that money went'
Mr Trump has turned his attention to the nuclear deal, saying "the same mindset that produced this deal also produced terrible trade deals that cost US jobs". He claims lifting sanctions freed up cash that Iran has used to pay for destabilising operations throughout the Middle East.
He also references a famous episode in which hundreds of millions of dollars was delivered to Iran by the US government.
"I wonder where all that money went," he said. "Worst of all the deal allows Iran to continuing developing certain elements of its nuclear programme."
US Treasury moves against Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
New sanctions are already posted on the US Treasury website, including Chinese companies and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
The 'rogue regime of Iran'
Donald Trump opens by saying his number one priority is the safety and security of the United States, which is why he ordered a complete strategic review policy towards the "rogue regime of Iran".
His aim is to ensure that Iran can never - "and I mean never" - acquire nuclear weapons.
Any minute now
Press pool setting up in the Diplomatic Reception Room on ground floor of WH for Pres Trump's Iran policy announcement. pic.twitter.com/q3vffbHkby— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 13, 2017
The nuclear deal is the latest multilateral agreement Mr Trump has tried to leave or destroy, such as the Paris climate accords or the Trans Pacific Partnership.
The best analogy may, however, be the North American Free Trade Agreement. After saying the US would pull out, he is now trying to renegotiate.
Mr Trump's tougher stance on Iran is expected to bring tough sanctions on the regime's non-nuclear activities. Sources are briefing that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps will be designated a foreign terrorist organisation in an effort to rein in its destabilising role across the Middle East.
What about the sunset clauses?
There is no "sunset" in the Iran deal. Iran has renounced nuclear weapons and will be strictly monitored by the IAEA. Forever.— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) October 13, 2017
One of Mr Trump's concerns is what happens when the deal lapses. However, the French ambassador to the US says it locks Iran into monitoring indefinitely.
Trump TV trailer
True to his reality TV show mentality, Mr Trump couldn't resist trailing his Iran announcement in a speech this morning.
Sanctions imposed since deal was reached
The nuclear deal does not mean the Trump administration cannot impose sanctions on Iran. The Associated Press has this guide to sanctions brought in since the deal was signed:
In at least five separate actions, the Trump administration has placed sanctions on more than 70 Iranian and non-Iranian people and companies that it says support Iran's ballistic missile program or other activities, such as cyber attacks.
Typically, the designation means blocking any assets the people and companies might have in the United States. Those targeted cannot access the US financial system or deal with U.S. companies and are subject to secondary sanctions, meaning the United States could blacklist foreign companies and individuals who deal with them.
In 2016, former President Barack Obama's administration also announced at least two sets of sanctions involving Iran's ballistic missile program.
Most targets of the sanctions are Iranian, but they also include companies and entities based in China, Lebanon, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates, as well as individuals from Britain and China.
Israeli security establishment backs deal
James Sorene, the chief executive of Bicom, the Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre, has this on the view from Israel:
Only Israel’s Prime Minister supports Trump’s view that Iran is violating the agreement. But Israel’s security establishment is increasingly challenging that position. Given the choice between an imperfect deal and no deal, they opt for the status quo because it offers years of relative stability vis a vis Iran’s nuclear capability, something no other option can provide. The US Defence Secretary General Mattis and the National Security Adviser General McMaster agree with their Israeli colleagues and have tried to convince President Trump to stick with the deal.
Mr Trump 'taking politically easy option'
There is also criticism from the Right. Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defence policy studies at the American Enterprise, says: “If rolling back and diminishing Iranian power is the priority Mr Trump insists it is, simply dumping the nuclear agreement in Congress’s lap may be the worst possible option. That would be politically easy, but it won’t get the job done.”
Democrats warn of consequences
High-profile Democrats have begun criticising Mr Trump's new position, pointing out that there is no evidence Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal
Reminder: the US military, intel community and our allies all report Iran is complying with the Deal. Trump's action pointless and dangerous— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) October 13, 2017