WASHINGTON – Calling the agreement “rotten at its core,” President Donald Trump on Tuesday withdrew the United States from a six-nation deal designed to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program and announced he would reimpose strong sanctions – and additional penalties – on the Middle Eastern powerhouse.
Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation reacted strongly, with Democrats denouncing the decision and the lone Republican unequivocally backing Trump.
The nuclear agreement, struck in 2015 by the United States, other world powers and Iran, lifted most U.S. and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program to make it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections. But Trump, a severe critic of the deal dating back to his presidential campaign, said in a televised address from the White House that it was a bad deal from the start.
“This was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” Trump said at the White House in announcing his decision. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”
U.S. allies in Europe had tried to keep him in the deal and lamented his move to abandon it. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ominously warned after Trump’s announcement that his country might “start enriching uranium more than before.”
Sen. Tom Udall, the Democratic dean of New Mexico’s delegation and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned Trump’s action, calling it “a dangerous mistake that will do grave damage to our global standing and our efforts to stop a nuclear Iran.”
“The president calls himself a deal-maker, but on one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, all President Trump has shown is that he can tear up a good deal without any backup plan or feasible path to a better deal,” Udall said moments after the president’s statement. “With this chaotic and dangerous approach to international relations, President Trump is squandering decades of American credibility and making our nation, and the world, less safe.”
Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican running for governor of New Mexico, supported Trump’s decision and called the Obama-era nuclear deal “dangerous.” Pearce said the deal has done little to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Despite the agreement in place, Iran continues to openly fund and assist terrorism, perpetuate human rights abuses, grow its ballistic missile programs, and intervene in Syria without any repercussions,” Pearce said. “Iran continues to have complete control over access to its military installations, preventing U.S. and U.N. inspectors from having any idea of the actual nuclear research and development taking place in the country. This is the only denuclearization initiative in history that has allowed such an opaque and arbitrary provision.”
The sanctions seek to punish Iran for its nuclear program by limiting its ability to sell oil or do business overseas, affecting a wide range of Iranian economic sectors and individuals. The announcement rolls back the signature foreign policy achievement of former President Barack Obama, who called the decision “so misguided” after Trump’s announcement.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, told reporters after the announcement that the decision will show that Trump wants a solid deal when he meets with North Korean President Kim Jong Un to discuss his country’s nuclear ambitions. Critics contend that it sends a message that the U.S. can’t be trusted to keep up its end of a bargain.
“I think the message to North Korea is the president wants a real deal,” Bolton said, noting that includes the elimination of both “the front and the back end” of the nuclear fuel cycle; no uranium enrichment; no plutonium reprocessing.
“There are other things we’ll be asking for as well,” Bolton added.
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a New Mexico Democrat running for governor, said the decision “creates another unnecessary, manufactured crisis that will produce uncertainty and instability in the Middle East, damage our credibility with our closest allies and undermine our ability to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.”
Rep. Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat who is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Trump’s decision “cedes U.S. leadership on the international stage.”
Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat who sits on the Senate intelligence committee, also criticized Trump’s decision.
“The president just handed religious extremists in Iran’s government a major victory,” Heinrich said. “Leaving the Iran deal green-lights the country’s nuclear program, jeopardizes our credibility and threatens our nation’s security. It also exposes our allies and weakens our ability to forge future multilateral agreements.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.