Trump warns Iran: ‘Don’t restart your nuclear weapons program’

“I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. I would advise them very strongly. If they do, there will be very severe consequence,” Trump said.

By RINA BASSIST
May 9, 2018 21:38
US President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures while addressing a joint news conference with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, US, April 30, 2018.. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

 
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US President Donald Trump warned Iran on Wednesday there will be severe consequences if it restarts its nuclear weapons program.

In a conversation with reporters in Washington before a cabinet meeting, Trump said he believes Tehran will eventually renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal with the six world powers.

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“I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. I would advise them very strongly. If they do, there will be very severe consequence,” he said.

The president spoke one day after he announced America’s withdrawal from the Iran deal and the reimposition of US sanctions on Tehran.
Trump quits Iran nuclear deal, reimposes sanctions on Tehran (Reuters)

“Iran will come back and say, ‘We don’t want to negotiate.’ And of course, they’re going to say that. And if I were in their position, I’d say that, too, for the first couple of months, ‘We’re not going to negotiate,’” Trump said.

“But they’ll negotiate, or something will happen. And hopefully that won’t be the case,” he said.

The sanctions the US will place on Iran are the strongest it has ever issued against any country, Trump said. These sanctions are “going into effect very shortly. They’re mostly constituted and drawn already.”

This is “a deal to hurt the world and, certainly, Israel. You saw Benjamin Netanyahu get up yesterday and talk so favorably about what we did,” he said.

“We’re going to make either a really good deal for the world, or we’re not going to make a deal at all,” Trump said.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton told CBS News the hope is that the sanctions will be so crippling that Tehran will be forced to give up its ballistic missiles program.

The Islamic Republic has increased spending on its ballistic missile program, which is not covered by the deal, Bolton said. It needs these missiles for a nuclear weapons program, he added.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blasted the US on Wednesday, charging that it is untrustworthy and that it had been a mistake for his country to enter into the 2015 agreement.

“From day one, I said several times that the United States is not to be trusted. I said it publicly and privately. I said if you want to sign an agreement, first make sure that necessary guarantees are made,” Khamenei said.

“What happened is a foul play on the part of the United States, and it does not surprise us,” he said during a speech he gave in Tehran. An English translation of his speech was published on his webpage.

The issue, he said, is not Iran’s nuclear weapons program but rather the persistent American animosity toward his country.

THE EU-3 COUNTRIES – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – hope they can sway Iran to remain in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Under the terms of the JCPOA, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an agreement from the six world powers that they would lift their economic sanctions.

Russia and China are also signatories to the deal and, like the EU-3, have no interest in ending it.

Bolton spoke with the EU-3 on Wednesday about the need to halt Iran’s nonnuclear military activity. He said the US would try to work with the Europeans. “We have a shared common objective, which is to prevent Iran form getting nuclear weapons.”

The disagreement is about whether the deal helps or harms that objective, he said.

Khamenei warned the EU-3 countries they would have to provide strong guarantees for Iran to stay in the agreement.

“We do not trust the three European countries, like we don’t trust the US; without receiving a strong guarantee from these three European countries, we won’t stick to the nuclear agreement,” he said.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “The deal is not dead. There’s an American withdrawal from the deal, but the deal is still there.”

But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a phone call that Europe had only a “limited opportunity” to preserve the pact, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.

“[Europe]... must, as quickly as possible, clarify its position and specify and announce its intentions with regard to its obligations,” ISNA quoted Rouhani as telling Macron.

Macron urged Rouhani to keep respecting the deal and consider broader negotiations.

A French source told reporters in Paris, “We are staying in the agreement, and are committed to implementing it. All of it. We will pursuit an active dialogue with the Iranians and encourage them to also keep the agreement and implement it fully.’’

The source added that “of course, there are many reasons to be preoccupied, also beyond the agreement, on issues such as the ballistic missile program, but that is exactly the reason why dialogue must continue.’’

Other French sources expressed on Wednesday concern over the future of French business activities in Iran. According to a French presidency source, “We will have to wait and see how exactly this will unfold. Obviously, the American decision will impact also non-American companies. We, all members of the European Union, will have to see with our companies how to confront this,” the source said.

FRENCH DIPLOMATS told The Jerusalem Post that Paris is worried over the regional implications, especially in Syria and Iraq, of the American decision to withdraw from the deal.

According to the diplomats, Iran is definitely not playing a stabilizing role in Syria, and the American decision hardly encourages Tehran to change its attitude.

Le Drian, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the International Atomic Energy Agency all said Iran was honoring its commitments under the accord.

“The region deserves better than further destabilization provoked by American withdrawal,” Le Drian said.

The EU said it would ensure sanctions on Iran remain lifted, as long as Tehran meets its commitments.

The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “deeply concerned” by the withdrawal, the RIA news agency said.

Merkel said that, while the existing deal should not be called into question, there should be discussion of “a broader deal that goes beyond it.”

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spoke of a “follow-on agreement,” but said it is now up to Washington to come up with concrete proposals. Macron said he wants a broader discussion with all relevant parties on the development of Iran’s nuclear program after 2025, when key elements of the 2015 deal expire, as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and wider Middle East issues.

Iranian officials will meet next week with counterparts from France, Britain and Germany.

The chances of saving the deal without Washington depend largely on whether international firms are willing and able to keep trading with Iran, despite US sanctions.

In a sign of what may be in store, the US ambassador to Berlin tweeted, within hours of taking up his post, that German businesses should halt activities in Iran at once.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the US should not consider itself the world’s “economic policeman.”

Britain, France and Germany said they would do all they could to protect their business interests in Iran, yet it was unclear how far they would be able to shield firms from US sanctions.

Brussels has a “blocking statute” at its disposal that bans any EU company from complying with US sanctions and does not recognize any court rulings that enforce American penalties.

But the statute has never been used and is seen by European governments more as a political weapon than a regulation, because its rules are vague and difficult to enforce.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman made the limits of action clear: “UK businesses may wish to consider the implications for their business activities in Iran and, where necessary, seek appropriate legal advice.”

Rouhani, whose position could be weakened by a blow to Iran’s economy, struck a more conciliatory tone in a televised speech, saying Iran would negotiate with EU countries, China and Russia.

“If, at the end of this short period, we conclude that we can fully benefit from the JCPOA with the cooperation of all countries, the deal will remain,” he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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