1. The United States is officially pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic, President Donald Trump dramatically announced Thursday, citing Israel’s recent revelations about intelligence showing that Tehran lied about its atomic program as one of the main reasons for his decision.
- Speaking from the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — as the deal is formally known — was “defective” and unable to rein in Iranian behavior or halt the Islamic Republic’s quest to develop nuclear weapons.
- Trump’s remarks came ahead of a self-imposed May 12 deadline to walk away from the deal; that date is when the president would be required to renew waivers on sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
- If the deal collapses, Iran would be free to resume prohibited enrichment activities, while businesses and banks doing business with Iran would have to scramble to extricate themselves or face financial ramifications.
2. Across the Atlantic, the leaders of France, Germany and the UK vowed to uphold the Iran nuclear deal despite Trump’s decision.
- In what seems like a lost cause, the three European leaders called on Washington to “ensure that the structures of the [agreement] can remain intact, and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal.”
- Britain, France, and Germany had in recent weeks led a campaign to persuade Trump to stick with the deal, arguing that it was the most effective way of stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
- EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the EU was “determined to preserve” the pact. Mogherini, who was one of the architects of the deal, said it was “delivering on its goals which guarantees that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.”
3. Meanwhile, former US president Barack Obama, whose signature foreign policy achievement had been the forging of the Iran deal, made a rare public criticism of his successor, describing Trump’s decision as “misguided” and a “serious mistake.”
- “The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working,” Obama said in a statement, referring to the deal by its acronym. “That is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current US secretary of defense.” He added that “[t]he consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.”
- John Kerry, who was Obama’s secretary of state and a main architect of the pact, also slammed Trump’s announcement, saying it was contrary to US interests. “Today’s announcement weakens our security, breaks America’s word, isolates us from our European allies, puts Israel at greater risk, empowers Iran’s hardliners, and reduces our global leverage to address Tehran’s misbehavior, while damaging the ability of future Administrations to make international agreements,” Kerry said in a statement.
4. In Israel, however, politicians overwhelmingly greeted the cancellation of the deal with applause.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had heavily lobbied against the deal and even spoke before the US congress in 2015 in an attempt to sway lawmakers from backing the accord, said he offered his full support for Trump’s “bold move.”
- In a statement, President Reuven Rivlin hailed Trump’s decision as “an important and significant step in ensuring the security of the entire free world.” And Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, in a tweet, said Trump’s decision heralded the eventual toppling of the Iranian regime.
5. The sigh of relief exhaled by many Israeli public figures in relation to the annulment of the Iran deal was also heard among the leaders of Sunni Arab nations in the Middle East.
- Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry said it “supports and welcomes the steps announced by the US president towards withdrawing from the nuclear deal… and reinstating economic sanctions against Iran.” The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also issued statements via their foreign ministries in support of Trump’s decision.
6. Iran, on its part, warned that it could start enriching uranium more than ever in the coming weeks, in response to the collapse of the agreement.
- President Hassan Rouhani called Trump’s decision an act of “psychological warfare,” adding that it was “illegal, illegitimate, and undermines international agreements.”
- Rouhani added that he wished to discuss Trump’s decision with the European, Russian, and Chinese parties to the 2015 deal. There’s a “short time” to negotiate, he said, adding that he will be sending Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to countries remaining in the accord.
7. Hours after Trump announced he would pull out of the deal, the Israeli army sounded alarms over what it said were “irregular Iranian movements in Syria,” advised residents of the Golan Heights to ready bomb shelters, and put its air defenses on high alert.
- A number of reservists were also called up, the army said. An IDF spokesperson would not elaborate on which units they came from, but media reports indicated they served in air defense, intelligence and Home Front Command units. The army further said it deployed missile defense batteries in northern Israel and “there is high preparedness of IDF troops for an attack.”
8. Overnight, Syrian state media reported that Israel conducted a strike south of Damascus, reportedly killing nine pro-Iranian fighters in an area previously identified as the site of a suspected Iranian military base.
- Videos from the scene posted on social media showed the moment of the strike’s impact and its aftermath. Surveillance footage showed a blast of white light as the bombs hit, followed by what appeared to be secondary explosions, supporting the claim that the targets of the strike were missiles. Cellphone videos also showed trucks burning and fires raging in the direction of the alleged Iranian base.
9. And finally, in some cheerful news unrelated to Iran, nuclear weapons, sanctions, or bomb shelters, Netta Barzilai, Israel’s pick for Eurovision 2018, made it through the first semifinal portion of the contest and is now qualified to contend in the Saturday night, May 12, final.
- Barzilai, who performed her unusual, incredibly catchy song “Toy,” is being singled out by Eurovision enthusiasts as one of the contestants most likely to win the contest.