Trump sets up a showdown over the Iran nuclear deal

October 13, 2017, 2:08pm

Donald Trump took a step toward dismantling Barack Obama’s landmark nuclear deal with Iran on Friday, but he didn’t go all the way. Instead, he told Congress they have 60 days to draft new terms that would either amend the agreement to his liking or risk watching him blow it up.

“We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said in long-awaited speech.

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Trump announced he was formally “decertifying” the nuclear deal with Iran, but he didn’t pull out. Instead, he essentially passed the decision of slapping new sanctions on Iran to Congress — a step that would all but kill the agreement.

If “we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Trump said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on the European Union to help counter any “destructive” measures the U.S. might take to tear up the deal as it currently exists, and placed a phone call to French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the issue Friday.

“The EU and Iran must cooperate with each other to stand up to the destructive and improper moves concerning the JCPOA,” Rouhani told Macron, referring to the nuclear deal’s formal title, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The EU’s top foreign policy official, Federica Mogherini, said the U.S. has no right to unilaterally toss out the agreement, which she called “effective.” There have been “no violations of any of the commitments,” she said.

Trump has long railed against what he’s called “the worst deal ever” to limit Iran’s nuclear program, and touted his own ability to negotiate a far better outcome for the U.S. Officials from the Obama White House have warned that any attempt to reopen the deal, or abandon it, could lead to disaster.

“Hard to overstate how irresponsible it is for Trump to risk blowing up Iran Deal by demanding rest of world justify his campaign rhetoric,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, tweeted after Trump’s speech. “Consequences for killing the Iran Deal are unconstrained Iranian nuclear program or war. You break the Iran Deal, you own what happens next.”