Iran Threatens Harsh Reprisals After U.S. Exits Nuclear Deal

Trump slaps Iran with tough sanctions, forcing global business exit

Donald Trump
Getty Images
May 8, 2018

Iranian leaders threatened harsh reprisals against the United States following President Donald Trump's decision to abandon the landmark nuclear deal and reimpose a series of harsh sanctions on Tehran that were lifted under the original agreement, according to U.S. officials and regional reports.

Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he will no longer abide by the deal, which he described as empowering Tehran's nuclear and missile programs while providing little benefit for the world.

"The United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal," Trump announced, before signing a presidential memorandum to reinstate U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Trump described these actions as "the highest level of economic sanctions" and said they could target any global business that does not wind down its business and investments in the Islamic Republic.

According to the White House, "the re-imposed sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran's economy."

The White House said there will be a period of time in which those doing business in Iran can wind down operations.

"Today we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie," Trump said, referring to the recent disclosure by Israel that Iran hid its previous nuclear military work and retains the infrastructure to restart it at anytime. "At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction."

"It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen."

"If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," Trump said, outlining a litany of what he views as key flaws in the deal. "Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs."

The deal cannot be fixed, Trump said, after months of negotiations between U.S. officials and European allies. Trump said he is willing negotiate a new deal, a term that Iranian leaders have rejected outright.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton told reporters immediately following Trumps' remarks that sanctions on Iran will be "immediately" reinstated. This means that businesses cannot engage in any new contracts with the Islamic Republic, though businesses currently engaged in work will be given a period of time to wind down their business interests.

"The decision is very clear," Bolston said. "It's a firm statement of American resolve to prevent not only Iran from getting nuclear weapons," but from strengthening its ballistic missile program and support for terror groups.

Bolton said the United States is "prepared to look at discussions" on a new deal. "We've been in discussions already with our allies."

Trump's decision to walk away from the deal came as newly instated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to North Korea to lay the groundwork for talks on its nuclear program.

Bolton said "the message to North Korea is that the president wants a real deal," not an agreement that mirrors the agreement between Iran and the former Obama administration. "Lifting the sanctions, as happened in 2015, helps fuel the activities Iran is taking now in Syria," as well as its support for Hezbollah and others terror groups like Hamas.

"You have to go after the whole thing," Bolton said.

"As we exit the Iran deal, we will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian threat," said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "We have a shared interest with our allies in Europe and around the world to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon.  But our effort is broader than just the nuclear threat and we will be working together with partners to eliminate the threat of Iran’s ballistic missile program; to stop its terrorist activities worldwide; and to block its menacing activity across the Middle East and beyond. As we build this global effort, sanctions will go into full effect and will remind the Iranian regime of the diplomatic and economic isolation that results from its reckless and malign activity."

The White House will now take greater action to combat Iran's ballistic missile program, which was left virtually untouched by the original agreement.

Iran can "never have an ICBM and must "cease developing any nuclear-capable missiles, and stop proliferating ballistic missiles to others," according to White House officials.

It must also "cease its support for terrorists, extremists, and regional proxies, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al Qaeda," the White House said, noting that Iran must also "end its publicly declared quest to destroy Israel."

Senior White House officials familiar with the administration's next steps on Iran said that harsh new sanctions on Iran will "target critical sectors" of the country's economy, including its energy, chemical, and petrolium sectors.

The United States will "immediately begin the process of reimposing sanctions," said the official, who would only speak on background.

Any company that does not comply with the United States' sanctions "will risk severe consequences."

Within 90 days, sanctions on Iran's automotive industry will kick in and the Treasury Department will also move to revoke licenses allowing the sale of aircraft to Tehran.

This move is likely to strike a major blow to U.S. airplane manufacturer Boeing's ongoing efforts to sell Tehran a new fleet of planes, a deal that has been criticized due to Iran's use of commercial aircraft to ferry terror fighters and weapons across the region.

"We’re going to continue to target Iran’s use of ballistic missiles" and end "Iran’s support for the brutal Assad regime," the official added.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), a leading and vocal opponent of the deal, praised the Trump administration's decision to crackdown on efforts by Western companies such as Boeing to sell Iran aircraft that would likely be used for military purposes.

"The administration’s decision to revoke licenses necessary for Western companies to sell Iran militarily-fungible aircraft is the right thing to do," Roskam told the Free Beacon, referring to Boeing's outstanding efforts to sell Iran Air, the country's state-controlled carrier, a fleet of new planes.

"Iran Air has long served as the IRGC’s terror-transport arm, shipping troops and weapons to Assad’s murderous regime and to terror proxies throughout the Middle East," Roskam said. "I’ve long advocated for the need to block these sales and the Treasury Department made the right decision."

Iranian leaders quickly lashed out at Trump, threatening harsh reprisals against the United States and vowing to never renegotiate a new deal to constrain the country's nuclear enrichment program, which Iran has bragged can be put online in just a matter of days in a much greater fashion than it was capable of when the deal was originally negotiated by the former Obama administration.

The deal is "by no means negotiable," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in recent remarks to European leaders. Rouhani emphasized that Tehran would not accept any new restrictions on its nuclear program and its ballistic missile development, which has emerged as a key concern in the region and beyond.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran will stand against this strategy firmly and will not accept any excessive demands to make new concessions," Ali Shamkhan, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council said on Tuesday ahead of Trump's announcement.

"If the nuclear deal is destroyed with the U.S. move, certainly, it will not benefit the U.S.," Shamkhan said. "If the U.S. starts confrontation against Iran, we will not remain passive."

Iran has vowed that if the United States imposes new sanctions, it would abandon the deal and restart full-scale nuclear enrichment. It is likely the Islamic Republic will also view this as an opportunity to flaunt its contested ballistic missile development program, which has continued undeterred since the nuclear deal was originally put in place.

Ali Larijani, speaker for the Iranian Parliament, vowed that Iran would respond to Trump's decision with force.

"Apparently one should speak with the Americans through the language of force and there is no other solution," he said.

"America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail," Trump said. "We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction and we will not allow a regime that chants 'death to America' to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth."

Update 2:55 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from John Bolton.

Update 3:45 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Mike Pompeo.

Update 4:21 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Peter Roskam.

Update 5:00 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from the speaker for the Iranian Parliament.