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How Nations Across The World Are Reacting To The U.S. Decision To Leave Iran Nuclear Deal

May 8, 2018
Originally published on May 8, 2018 8:20 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're covering President Trump's decision to take the U.S. out of the agreement aimed at limiting Iran's nuclear program. Under that deal, the U.S. and five other world powers lifted some economic sanctions against Iran. That happened in exchange for Iran destroying a lot of its nuclear equipment and allowing inspections. Today, Trump said he would reimpose some sanctions that had been lifted as part of the U.S. commitment to that agreement, and Iran quickly responded with a statement of its own, as have other countries.

NPR's Peter Kenyon has covered the deal since it was signed in 2015. He joins us now. And, Peter, what's been the public reaction in Iran so far?

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Well, President Hassan Rouhani went directly onto national TV. He says this proves what Iran has long claimed - that the U.S. has no respect for its international commitments. He says Tehran concluded months ago Trump would pull out and has been taking steps to prepare. They're prepared to protect the foreign exchange rates, he says. People on the streets shouldn't see any big problems with essential commodities and goods.

He also says he wants his negotiators to talk with the other five countries still in the deal - Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain - to see if Iran can still achieve its goals by staying in the deal even without America. But if not, he says he's instructed his nuclear agency to be prepared to resume fuel enrichment very quickly should that become necessary. And one other comment quickly from the first vice president - Iran would be naive to negotiate any new deal with the U.S. after this experience.

CORNISH: And Rouhani is supposed to be a relative moderate, right? So how could this end up playing out for this regime in Iranian politics?

KENYON: Yes, that's a good point. Rouhani himself is a pragmatist, but he's supported by many moderates. And this is a blow to him. There's no question about it. This was a big achievement for Rouhani. He's putting the best spin on it he can. He's dismissing Trump as a bothersome creature, according to PressTV's translation. He says maybe the nuclear agreement will work better now that the U.S. is gone. But there's no question that hard-liners back home in Tehran will be finding ways to use this as a political club against Rouhani.

CORNISH: What about reaction from the region beyond Iran? Are there other countries who had signed onto the deal who are reacting today?

KENYON: Yes, and beyond that as well - a lot of criticism and regret and disappointment. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says this was the result of 12 years of diplomacy. It's still working, she says. It's keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. And the EU intends to keep implementing it and calls on other countries to do the same. The former president, Barack Obama - he was in the White House when the deal was agreed - called it misguided. The European negotiators in the deal - Britain, Germany, France - are voicing regret and concern. Russia says this could put the Korean peace process in doubt.

There was a note of praise. It came from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He said Israel fully supports President Trump's bold decision and thanked him. But the overall response has been generally negative.

CORNISH: So no countries who signed on saying that this was a good move.

KENYON: No, none at all.

CORNISH: The question that's being asked a lot today is whether this deal can live on without the U.S. Do you get that sense that it can?

KENYON: Well, in theory, yes, it definitely could. The problem would be if Washington then aggressively pursues what's called secondary sanctions against European or other countries or companies that try to do business with Iran. The U.S. treasury secretary has announced there will be at least a 90-day wind-down period, maybe longer. And during that time, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, has already said he hopes to keep negotiating with Washington, try to hammer out some kind of joint approach to Iran policy going forward. Whether that can be accomplished or whether these differences are insurmountable - that's what we're waiting to find out now.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Peter, thank you.

KENYON: Thanks, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.