U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on new Iran strategy at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Oct. 13, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump rolled out his new Iran strategy on Friday, vowing to deny Tehran "all paths to a nuclear weapon" in a major shift in Washington's Iran policy. (Xinhua/Ting Shen)
WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- In his latest attempt to fulfill another campaign promise, U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday dealt a blow to the Iran nuclear deal without scrapping it.
"I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification (of Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal)," Trump said at the White House as he unveiled a new Iran strategy of his administration.
The decertification would not pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal at the moment, but it would open a 60-day window in which U.S. Congress could reimpose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, a step which would mean the violation of the deal on the U.S. side.
During his speech on Friday, Trump called the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into," and blamed Iran for committing "multiple violations of the agreement" and "not living up to the spirit of the deal."
His accusation of Iran's violation of the agreement appeared to contradict remarks by his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had said earlier that under the JCPOA, the United States did not dispute that Iran was "under technical compliance."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN watchdog tasked with monitoring Iran's nuclear activities, had in the past certified eight times Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal.
Despite his criticism of Iran and the Iran nuclear deal, Trump on Friday stopped short of abandoning the nuclear deal.
Instead, he said he was directing his administration to work with Congress and U.S. allies to address "the deal's many serious flaws," including "insufficient enforcement and near-total silence on Iran's missile programs."
In case the efforts fail, Trump warned that "then the (Iran nuclear) agreement will be terminated."
"Our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time," said Trump.
Together with his announcement to decertify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal, Trump on Friday unveiled a much tougher Iran strategy, including new sanctions on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
"I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism, and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents and affiliates," said Trump.
Other parts of the new strategy also target Iran's ballistic missile program, which was not covered by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Trump's announcement immediately drew criticism both at home and abroad.
Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement after Trump's announcement that the decision to decertify Iran's compliance would "isolate" the United States.
"Unilaterally putting the deal at risk does not isolate Iran," said the statement. "It isolates us."
"The decision will cost us leverage. It will weaken our unity with our allies. It will damage our credibility," the statement said, adding that Trump's decision "goes against reason and evidence."
European Union (EU) leaders on Friday voiced their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal and its full implementation by all sides despite Trump's decision to decertify Iran's compliance.
In a joint statement, leaders of France, Germany and Britain said that they were concerned by the possible implications of Trump's decision, urging the U.S. administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the United States and its allies "before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement."
Meanwhile, the IAEA on Friday again confirmed that Iran had been implementing the Iran nuclear deal under the robust nuclear verification regime.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said Tehran was co-operating with the agency to implement the commitment to be undertaken by Tehran.
"Iran is now provisionally implementing the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, a powerful verification tool which gives our inspectors broader access to information and locations in Iran," said Amano.
It remains unclear the path forward for the Iran nuclear deal, but experts warned that Trump's decision could severely backfire and would give Iran "an excuse to opt-out of the deal."
According to Darrell West, a Brookings Institution Senior Fellow, if the United States eventually withdraws from the nuclear deal, the results would be "catastrophic" for the Middle East for it will add uncertainty to the region and create anxiety among regional countries.
Though the deal isn't perfect, there are positive aspects such as imposing constraints on Iran, said West. It could be a "very short-sighted move on Trump's part" to decertify the deal.
Furthermore, West pointed out, decertifying the deal would add to the tensions the United States has been already facing.
"If the agreement falls apart, Trump will face a crisis not just in North Korea, but in Iran," he said, referring to the name Americans often use for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Currently, tensions are rising between Washington and Pyongyang over the latter's nuclear weapons program, and harsh rhetoric between the United States and the DPRK has escalated in recent days and weeks.
The nuclear deal was reached between Iran and six countries including Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany in July 2015. So far, the deal had helped defuse the Iran nuclear crisis and bolstered the international non-proliferation regime.
Trump had long criticized the Iran nuclear pact. In his speech delivered at UN General Assembly last month, Trump called the agreement "an embarrassment" for the United States.
According to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INRA) passed by U.S. Congress in 2015, the Trump administration is required every 90 days to recertify to Congress Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal.