President Donald Trump on Friday laid out his new strategy for addressing what he termed Iran's 'dangerous aggression', issuing new penalties against Iran's Revolutionary Guards and saying he will not certify the landmark Iran nuclear deal.
Presidents are required under U.S. law to certify the Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), every 90 days. Trump had until Sunday to make the certification, but said 'we cannot and will not' take the action.
“What is the purpose of a deal that, at best, only delays Iran’s nuclear capability for a short period of time?” Trump asked rhetorically during an address at the White House.
Trump claimed Iran has run afoul of the agreement on multiple occasions, pointing to alleged violations of limits of nuclear materials, as well as what he called Iran's intimidation of 'international inspectors into not using full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for.
'Iranian officials and military leaders have repeatedly claimed they will not allow inspectors on to military sites even though the international community suspects some of those sites were part of Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program,” he said.
In exchange for lifting sanctions on Iran, the JCPOA provided international inspectors broad access to Iran's nuclear program as Iran sharply curtailed the program.
Military sites were not explicitly included in the deal, and international inspectors have continually verified Iran's compliance since the JCPOA went into effect in January 2016.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed Trump's speech and said the U.S. could not unilaterally terminate the agreement.
Speaking to state television, Rouhani described the U.S. president’s address as “nothing more than insults and accusations”.
With Trump's decertification, Congress will now have to decide how it will proceed on the historic nuclear deal.
It is far from clear if Congress will take any action that could exit the U.S. from the deal, including snapping back sanctions, but Trump said lawmakers are working on legislation that would strengthen enforcement and combat Iran's development of ballistic missiles.
Shortly after Trump made his announcement House Speaker Paul Ryan said he supports the 'decision to reevaluate this dangerous deal', but stopped short of saying he would support re-imposing the U.S.'s nuclear-related sanctions.
'The nuclear agreement struck by the previous administration with Iran is fatally flawed,' he said in a statement. 'Simply enforcing a fatally flawed agreement is not sufficient.'
Congress could choose to take measures other than sanctions, such as passing resolutions seeking renegotiation of key aspects of the JCPOA, but shortly after Trump made his announcement the U.S.'s key negotiating partners -- France, Germany and the United Kingdom -- said the agreement is in their national interest.
The leaders of those three European nations said in a joint statement they 'are concerned by the possible implications' of Trump's decision not to recertify the nuclear pact.
'We stand committed to the JCPoA and its full implementation by all sides,' it said. '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.'
They said they share Trump's concerns about Iran's missile program and other regional activities.
If a solution cannot be reached with Congress and U.S. allies “then the agreement will be terminated”, Trump said.
During his White House address, Trump also announced sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), calling it the 'Iranian Supreme leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia”.
He said the Iranian military organization plotted to bomb a restaurant in Washington DC., but it is unclear what incident he is referring to.
U.S. officials have blamed the IRGC's elite Quds Force for an attempt to assassinate the Saudi Arabia's U.S. ambassador at a restaurant in Washington DC in 2011, but the extent of Iran's involvement has faced scrutiny.
The U.S. previously blacklisted the Quds Force in 2007 but refrained from designating the wider IRGC.
In announcing the new actions, the Treasury Department said it was designating the IRGC because of its support for the Quds Force.
By Michael Hernandez in Washington
* Anadolu Agency’s correspondents Mustafa Melih Ahıshalı in Tehran, Merve Aydogan in Ankara, Handan Kazanci in Istanbul and Ahmet Gurhan Kartal in London contributed to this report.