U.S. President Donald Trump will announce he is pulling out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, European diplomats told the New York Times hours ahead of the president’s highly-anticipated decision.
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According to diplomats, Trump had always wanted to scrub the deal, but was convinced there was no viable alternative by his former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. However, the two were replaced with John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, two of the deal’s most vocal critics.
According to one diplomat with close knowledge of attempts to try to convince Trump to remain committed to the agreement, the chances of such a scenario were "very small."
Another said it was "pretty obvious" Trump would not sign the 120-day waiver on U.S. sanctions against Iran, which he has until May 12 to decide whether to do.
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When asked about what he expected, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before departing for a summit with the leaders of Greece and Cyprus, that: "I suggest we all wait until 21:00 (Israel time), that’s not too long now."
Netanyahu will come back to Israel before meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Moscow. Netanyahu left Israel early Tuesday, and will return at around noon to be in Israel for Trump’s announcement.
Trump has consistently threatened to pull out of the 2015 agreement because it does not address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its role in wars in Syria and Yemen, and does not permanently prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
A senior U.S. official close to the process said France, Germany and Britain had moved significantly to address Trump’s concerns over the ballistic missile program, the terms under which international inspectors visit suspect Iranian sites, and "sunset" clauses under which some terms of the deal expire.
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But it was not clear whether those last-ditch efforts had made enough progress to persuade Trump to stay in the pact.
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"The big question in my mind is does he think the Europeans have moved far enough so that we can all be unified and announce a deal?" the official told Reuters.
European leaders have warned that a U.S. withdrawal would undo years of work that led to and sustained a landmark deal that has kept nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands.
Trump, in a tweet on Monday, said he would make the announcement at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.
The Iran deal, negotiated during the administration of Trump’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, eased economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program.
But Trump has called it the "worst deal ever negotiated" and he wants Britain, France and Germany – which also signed the pact along with Russia and China – to toughen up the terms.
In the past few weeks, the Republican president has consulted either in person or by telephone with leaders of all three countries.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made the rounds in Washington on Monday, including talks with Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Still, European diplomats privately said they expected Trump to withdraw from the agreement.