President-elect Donald Trump will likely not pull the US out of a nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers once he takes office, US President Barack Obama said Monday.
During a press conference in Washington, Obama said that he sees a “gap” between “reality” and the “rhetoric” of his successor, who has previously vowed to rip up the accord.
“It becomes more difficult, I think, to undo something that’s working than undo something that isn’t working,” Obama said of the nuclear deal signed during his administration between Tehran and the P5+1 world powers.
Advisers to Trump have said he plans to strictly police the Iran nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the 45th commander in-chief has referred to as one of the worst ever negotiated in history.
The agreement lays out the lifting of sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran’s curtailing of its nuclear program. (Iran’s Zarif hopes nuclear deal is kept once the dust settles)
Sweeping aside doubts that Iran would abide by the deal, Obama said evidence over the past year indicates that the Islamic Republic has heeded its stipulations.
“We now have over a year of evidence that they have abided by the agreement. That’s not just my opinion. It’s not just people in my administration,” he asserted. “That’s the opinion of Israeli military and intelligence officers who are part of a government that vehemently opposed the deal.”
In his warning that Trump will encounter a quick wake-up call when he enters the White House in January, Obama noted that the act of torpedoing the US end of the deal could ultimately lead to a situation in which Iran faces no repercussions in its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
Obama said he believed Trump would rollback on his campaign vows to completely scrap the deal after further review with congressional representatives and advisers.
“When you are responsible for the deal and preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, you’re more likely to look at the facts,” he said, adding, “to unravel a deal that’s working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain, particularly if the alternative were to have them free from any obligations and go ahead and pursue a weapon.”
Obama also mentioned that the consequences of America’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal would impact Washington’s relations with the five other world powers that signed the deal: Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
According to Obama, for the US “to pull out would then require us to start sanctioning those other countries in Europe or China or Russia, that were still abiding by the deal, because from their perspective, Iran had done what it was supposed to do.”
Following Trump’s election last week, Iran urged the brash billionaire real estate mogul to remain committed to the international deal.
On Sunday, a senior Obama administration official said the Treasury Department will offer Trump a policy toolkit on Iran full of hammers and screws when he becomes president.
Adam Szubin, who serves as acting under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, said he plans to present as many options as possible to his successor on Iran policy, after focusing for several years on the machinations of sanctions against Iran and its proxies.
Michael Wilner contributed to this report.