Netanyahu’s press conference shook Washington, where few had advanced warning of the planned announcement and many took it as a sign that Trump was strategically coordinating with Israel ahead of his expected withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
"Iran's leaders repeatedly deny ever pursuing nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said in Tel Aviv. "Tonight I'm here to tell you one thing: Iran lied."
The president acknowledged growing expectations that he will pull out of the accord by May 12— a deadline he has set upon Britain, France and Germany to come up with “substantial” fixes to some of the agreement’s most controversial provisions. If the European powers fail to do so, Trump says he will allow for nuclear sanctions to snap back into place, effectively withdrawing the US from the 2015 agreement by default.
“It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t negotiate a new agreement,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden. He said scrapping the non-proliferation agreement would send “the right message” to North Korea in upcoming negotiations over its own nuclear work, given “new information” that had come to light on Monday.
The president also claimed the deal “frees” Iran to develop nuclear weapons in seven years. The letter of the agreement commits Iran never to construct nuclear weapons— a pledge it originally made in joining the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in the 1970s. But Netanyahu’s point was that Iran’s commitments were based on lies, raising questions over whether their weapons program had ever ceased— and over what sort of agreement with Iran would ever be considered of good faith.
The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, put caps on Tehran’s enrichment of uranium that phase out between 10 and 15 years. As those “sunset clauses” are reached, Iran will be allowed to grow the size and efficiency of its program— installing advanced models of uranium-enriching centrifuges in place of decades-old technology, in greater numbers and at more facilities.
That will shrink the “breakout time” Iran would need to develop fissile material for nuclear bombs, should it make the political decision to proceed.
Trump wants a deal that will grant UN inspectors snap access to Iran’s military facilities, where much of their past nuclear weapons work took place; an end to their program on ballistic missiles, designed to deliver nuclear warheads; a permanent extension of the “sunset clauses;” and commitments from world powers to thwart Iran’s military ambitions across the Middle East.