US President Donald Trump is set to reveal his decision on whether to keep the US in the Iran deal this week, a move that could determine the fate of 2015 agreement that froze Iran’s nuclear program.
The announcement is set to cap more than a year of deliberation and negotiation that has at time pitted Trump against some of his closest aides and key American allies. Trump is facing a self-imposed May 12 deadline over whether to uphold the 2015 nuclear agreement, which he long has criticised. The president has signalled he will pull out of the pact by the deadline unless it is revised, but he faces intense pressure from European allies not to do so.
The president has been the subject of an intense lobbying effort by American allies to maintain the agreement, with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson making a last-ditch appeal to the administration in a visit to Washington this week. European leaders say that they are open to negotiating a side agreement with Iran, but the existing framework must remain untouched for that to happen.
It is not immediately clear what Trump will announce or whether he will announce the end of the deal or push for a renegotiation. Trump in October “decertified” the deal with Iran, but did not move to re-impose sanctions, known as a “snap-back.”
This week Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would be willing not to abandon the nuclear deal even if the US pulls out, providing the EU offers guarantees that Iran would keep benefiting from the accord.
Rouhani said that “what we want for the deal is that it’s preserved and guaranteed by the non-Americans” — a reference to other signatories of the 2015 agreement.
US officials and European allies share the conclusion that the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has halted Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Trump has objected to a sunset provision that would allow Iran to restart some nuclear development in 2025.
Supporters of the deal argue that withdrawing from the Plan of Action would undermine Trump’s push for North Korea, which has a far more advanced nuclear program than ever possessed by Iran, to denuclearise. Trump is planning on meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un within the next month.
Earlier this week, Trump criticised John Kerry after reports that the former secretary of state has been promoting the Iran nuclear deal.
Trump said on Twitter: “The United States does not need John Kerry’s possibly illegal Shadow Diplomacy on the very badly negotiated Iran Deal. He was the one that created this MESS in the first place!”
Kerry, who was also the lead negotiators for the Obama administration on the Paris climate accord, has been promoting both agreements since he left office.
Last week The Boston Globe reported that Kerry, the lead negotiator on the deal for the Obama administration, had been privately meeting with foreign officials to strategise on how to keep the US in the deal.
Kerry has met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. At least one of their meetings was at a June 2017 public event in Oslo, Norway, where they sat on the same panel with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and extolled the virtues of the nuclear deal.
Kerry, a keen environmentalist who regularly derided climate change skeptics and championed ocean health while secretary of state, has also continued to speak out on those issues since becoming a private citizen.
Last week at an event in Dallas, Trump mocked Kerry over a bicycle accident he had three years ago.