Saudi Arabia, regional rival of Iran and longtime US ally, said it “supports and welcomes” US President Donald Trump’s decision on Tuesday to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“The kingdom supports and welcomes the steps announced by the US president towards withdrawing from the nuclear deal… and reinstating economic sanctions against Iran,” the foreign ministry said late Tuesday, joining Israel as one of the few countries to back Trump’s move.
Riyadh’s allies in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, also issued statements via their foreign ministries in support of Trump’s decision, which has thrown a wrench between the United States, Europe and their allies in the region.
The US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, strategically located between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi Arabia accused Iran of “taking advantage of the revenue generated by the lifting of the sanctions to destabilize the region,” the foreign ministry said.
The Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom is locked in multiple proxy wars with its Shiite rival in the Middle East, including in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
Trump announced the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, following through on a campaign promise and defying European allies who implored him to maintain an agreement that international agencies have said Tehran is honoring.
In a highly anticipated address from the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump cast the landmark agreement forged under predecessor Barack Obama as ‘defective’ and unable to rein in Iranian behavior or halt the Islamic Republic’s quest to develop a nuclear program.
“I’m announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” he said while adding that his administration “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction.”
Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France, and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.”
Trump emphasized that sanctions would also apply to other nations that did business with Iran, meaning that the United States could very well apply sanctions on its closest European allies. “America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail,” Trump said.
However, officials said European companies would have several months to pull out of the Iranian market.
Responding to the move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has lobbied against the deal, said he offered his full support for Trump’s “bold move.”
European signatories vowed to stick by the agreement.
Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani slammed Trump’s announcement as an act of “psychological warfare,” warning that his country could start enriching uranium more than ever in the coming weeks.
State television said the decision was “illegal, illegitimate, and undermines international agreements,” Reuters reported.
Speaking live on state television, Rouhani said 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.
In January, Trump waived sanctions for the third time in his presidency, but said he wouldn’t take that action again unless Congress and European allies amended the pact.
Since then, international negotiators have unsuccessfully sought to make changes to the deal — and Tehran has refused to accept any alterations to its terms.
The Iran agreement, struck in 2015 by the United States, other world powers and Iran, lifted most US and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.
Over the last several weeks, leaders from France, Britain, and Germany have all lobbied the president not to abscond from the accord, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned assiduously to discredit the deal.
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 run afoul of the US American officials were dusting off plans for how to sell a pullout to the public and explain its complex financial ramifications.
Eric Cortellessa and agencies contributed to this report.