European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Miguel Arias Canete announced in Tehran Friday that the European Union will protect from U.S. sanctions European companies that continue to do business with Iran despite President Trump's decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.
This move comes at the behest of Iran deal signatories France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, which have sought to preserve the deal after America's exit. "We have sent a message to our Iranian friends that as long as they are sticking to the agreement the Europeans will ... fulfill their commitment," Canete said. "And they said the same thing on the other side."
"We hope [the EU's] efforts materialize," said Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, because "America's actions ... show that it is not a trustworthy country in international dealings." Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Tehran will stay in the deal as long as Iranian interests are "guaranteed by its non-American signatories ... In that case, getting rid of America's mischievous presence will be fine for Iran." Bonnie Kristian
President Trump tweeted on Monday afternoon that he will announce his "decision on the Iran Deal" Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET.
Under the 2015 agreement between Iran and the U.S., U.K., Russia, France, China, and Germany, Iran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Trump, who has called the deal "ridiculous" and said several times he will pull out, has until May 12 to decide whether he's going to withdraw from it or not.
When French President Emmanuel Macron visited the U.S. last month, Trump said he wanted a new deal with "solid foundations," and while Macron has urged Trump to stay in the pact, he said he "bet" Trump would withdraw. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday his country is "prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week." Catherine Garcia
The White House corrects its statement on Iran's nuclear program, undercutting Israel's claim Iran lied
On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a big show of unveiling what he called proof that Iran "lied" about its nuclear program, showing a wall of compact discs he said prove Iran had a nuclear weapons program, called Project Amad, that it shelved in 2003 — 12 years before Iran signed its nuclear deal with the U.S. and five other world powers. Netanyahu, a fierce opponent of the deal, said Iran did not "shelve its nuclear ambitions," but he offered no proof and took no questions.
The White House released a statement saying Israel's intelligence confirms what the U.S. already knows, that "Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world." It then issued a second statement changing "has" to "had," effectively confirming that Iran no longer has a nuclear weapons program. A White House official told NBC News that a "clerical error" was to blame for the wrong verb tense being used. James Fallows, who worked in the Carter White House, compared that "error" to "a surgeon amputating the wrong leg."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. has "known about this material for a while" and he had discussed it with Netanyahu, but when asked if it shows Iran violating the nuclear agreement, as Netanyahu claimed, he said, "I'll leave that to the lawyers." In his April 12 Senate confirmation hearing, Pompeo, then CIA director, had said he has "seen no evidence that they are not in compliance today." Under the 2015 deal, Tehran cannot make nuclear fuel until 2030 and it has agreed never to make nuclear weapons. The U.S. and International Atomic Energy Agency have had similar proof that Iran used to have a nuclear weapons program since at least 2008.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi dismissed "Netanyahu's show" as "a childish and ridiculous game" timed "to affect Trump's decision on Iran's nuclear deal" by May 12. A senior Israeli official tells The New York Times that Israel believes President Trump will pull out of the Iran deal so Netanyahu's presentation was to "support" Trump, not "pressure" him. Peter Weber
On Friday, President Trump will largely wash his hands of the nuclear deal reached with Iran, Russia, China, and three European countries, according to a summary released by the White House late Thursday. Trump has long railed against the deal, grudgingly certifying Iran's compliance two times, and by announcing he is neither certifying it again nor trying to amend it for now, he will leave up to Congress whether to impose deal-wrecking sanctions.
Trump is encouraging Congress to establish "trigger points" on sanctions, but it is unclear if Congress will muster agreement to do anything. The New York Times describes the new Iran strategy as a "face-saving compromise" between Trump and his national security officials, who favor sticking with the Iran deal. Along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump was getting increasing pressure to not scrap the deal from people outside his administration like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, hawkish former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Uzi Arad, a former Israeli intelligence chief and top aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strident critic of the deal.
Trump's new strategy "focuses on neutralizing the government of Iran's destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants," the White House summary says. Trump will announce plans to contain the Iranian Revolutionary Guards but not designated it a foreign terrorist organization, as threatened. Peter Weber
Just before a midnight deadline on Tuesday, the Trump administration informed Congress that Iran is living up to the terms of a 2015 nuclear deal brokered under former President Barack Obama, and was thus eligible for extended sanctions relief. During the 2016 campaign, President Trump was a vocal critic of the deal, negotiated between Iran, the U.S., and five other world powers, but he has given mixed signals on his intentions since taking office. The agreement rolls back Iran's nuclear programs in return for unfreezing billions in Iranian assets.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson certified Iran's compliance, but said the Trump administration is undertaking an interagency review of the deal, led by the National Security Council, to see if it "is vital to the national security interests of the United States." Iran, he added, "remains a leading state sponsor of terror, through many platforms and methods." The Islamic republic is still subject to non-nuclear sanctions and remains on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. The White House must update Congress on Iran's compliance every 90 days. Peter Weber
The U.S. and its five negotiating partners agreed to let Iran keep more low-enriched uranium (LEU) and other nuclear materials than agreed upon, so Iran could be in compliance with the nuclear deal by the January deadline, Reuters reports, citing an unpublished report by Washington think tank the Institute for Science and International Security. The institute's president, former U.N. weapons inspector David Albright, told Reuters "the exemptions or loopholes are happening in secret, and it appears that they favor Iran." The report, whose assertions Reuters could not verify, relies on information from several unidentified officials of governments involved in the negotiations; it is scheduled to be released on Thursday.
The exemptions were reportedly approved by the joint commission appointed to oversee the Iran nuclear deal, made up of representatives from the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, Germany, and France, plus the European Union. One official told the ISIS think tank that if those exemptions had not been granted, Iran would not have met the Jan. 16 deadline for the beginning of economic sanctions relief. Congress was informed on Jan. 16, after the exemptions had been granted, Albright said. You can read what Iran reportedly got out of the exemptions at Reuters. Peter Weber
On Sunday, President Obama and the European Union issued legal documents paving the way for the lifting of financial and economic sanctions against Iran, but only if Tehran complies with the terms of the deal hammered out with the U.S., the EU, three European nations, China, and Russia. In Europe, the EU published its documents and Obama ordered the relevant federal departments — state, treasury, commerce, and energy — to "take all necessary steps to give effect to the U.S. commitments with respect to sanctions described in (the Iran deal)." The U.S. will keep other sanctions in place regardless.
The sanctions won't be eased until the International Atomic Energy Agency affirms that Iran has lived up to its commitments, a process German Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said wouldn't be complete until the end of the year or the beginning of 2016. Last week, the IAEA said Iran had given it all the necessary information to determine its past history of nuclear activity, as mandated by the nuclear agreement, and on Sunday the U.N. atomic watchdog said Tehran had agreed to protocols allowing more intrusive nuclear inspections. You can learn more in the VOA video below. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, Iran's state news agency said that the Iranian parliament had approved the nuclear deal negotiated with the U.S. and five other world powers. The vote was 161 in favor, 59 against, 13 abstentions, according to the IRNA news agency; 57 other lawmakers either didn't vote or even attend the session. The Guardian Council, a body of 12 senior clerics, will now review the accord, and could send it back to parliament for reconsideration. The final wild card is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on the nuclear deal but has said parliament should decide.
Hardliners tried to sink the deal until the end, and some wept after the vote. Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, a spokesman for President Hassan Rouhani, welcomed the "historic decision," saying: "Members of parliament made a well-considered decision today showing they have a good understanding of the country's situation." Peter Weber