WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump committed on Sunday to enforcing the Iranian nuclear deal, despite his campaign pledge to dismantle the landmark accord that he has repeatedly called “disastrous” and “one of the dumbest deals” he’s ever seen.
In a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the president pledged to “rigorously enforc[e] the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” referring to the deal’s formal name, according to a White House readout of the conversation.
As a candidate, Trump often sent mixed signals about how he would handle the Iranian nuclear threat if he was elected. In his address at last year’s AIPAC Policy Conference, he vowed both to rip up the pact and enforce it.
“My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” Trump said at the conference in March 2016, calling the controversial agreement signed between the P5+1 world powers and Tehran “catastrophic for America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East.” Later in the speech he called to “at the very least” implement the deal that lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for it curbing its nuclear program.
Since Trump’s election in November, his advisers have signaled that he would not unilaterally walk away from the agreement unless Tehran violated its terms.
Along with Israel, Saudi Arabia has been one of the Middle Eastern countries most opposed to the nuclear deal.
During their call on Sunday, Trump and King Salman also committed to “address Iran’s destabilizing regional activities” and reaffirmed their commitment to the US-Saudi Arabia strategic alliance.
The leaders further agreed to cooperate on the fight against “radical Islamic terrorism” and to create safe zones in Syria and Yemen, according to the White House, a dramatic departure from the policy of former president Barack Obama toward the region.
“The president requested and the King agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen, as well as supporting other ideas to help the many refugees who are displaced by the ongoing conflicts,” read the statement.
Trump and the Saudi monarch also discussed ways to “strengthen bilateral economic and energy cooperation” between the US and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia was not among the seven Middle Eastern and African Muslim-majority countries from which travel to the United States was temporarily banned in an executive order signed by Trump on Friday.
The move sparked protests across the US as travelers and visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia were barred entry.
There was no indication Trump and King Salman discussed the issue, even as the head of the Arab League — of which Riyadh is a member — voiced his “deep concern” over “the unjustified restrictions on the entry of citizens of several Arab nations to the US, in addition to the consequences of suspending the acceptance of Syrian refugees.”
Trump denied that the move amounted to a “Muslim ban,” charging that the order was “not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” adding that more 40 Muslim countries were not affected by his order.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report