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Trump Won't Certify Iran Nuclear Deal, Gets Praise And Criticism


President Trump's announcement on Iran didn't quite scrap the agreement, but of course, as we said, he did call on the U.S. Congress to write new provisions that would spell out conditions under which sanctions could be reimposed on Iran. That move drew praise in some quarters, Israel and Saudi Arabia noticely (ph) but it was - notably, but it was criticized by Iran and most of the countries that negotiated the deal alongside the U.S. NPR's Peter Kenyon has been tracking reaction. He joins us from Istanbul. Peter, thanks for being with us.


SIMON: And what does Iran say officially about the future of this agreement?

KENYON: Well, just as Donald Trump delivered threats but didn't actually pull out of the deal for the U.S., Iran did about the same. President Hassan Rouhani gave a nationally televised address. He said as long as the others keep up their end of the deal, which mainly means waiving sanctions, Iran will do its part, restricting its nuclear program, submitting to these inspections. But Rouhani also issued a bunch of warnings. He said Iran would act swiftly if the deal is violated. He responded to Trump's attacks on Iran. He seized on the fact that none of the U.S. negotiating partners from the deal are supporting this move. And he said, rather than isolating Iran, he might be isolating the U.S. Here's a bit of what he said.


PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI: (Through interpreter) Once again, the EU also took a firm position against the United States. America is now isolated, much more isolated than ever, when it comes to hatching new plots against the Iranian nation.

KENYON: Now, Rouhani also dismissed a number of the things Trump wants - cutting Iran's ballistic missile program. And by the way, it's not just the U.S. The U.N. and others have a problem with those missiles as well. And he rejected the idea of curtailing activities in Iraq, Syria, elsewhere in the Middle East.

SIMON: Is President Rouhani correct, though, in what he just said, that, for example, the European states that were U.S. partners in the Iran deal are openly displeased?

KENYON: Yes, absolutely. The EU foreign policy chief said we cannot afford to dismantle an agreement. It's working; also adding it's not up to any one country to terminate it. The U.K., Germany and France combined in a joint statement saying, Congress, please consider what you're doing here. These countries don't see anything good coming out of one state trying to change the deal after the fact. They did suggest maybe separate talks might be possible to address their concerns sometime in the future.

SIMON: Peter, we said that both Israel and Saudi Arabia praised the move. You're not accustomed to putting praise and Israel and Saudi Arabia in the same sentence. What did they do?

KENYON: (Laughter) Well, it is remarkable how sometimes their interests line up. I mean, Iran's - they're Iran's most powerful regional rivals after all, and they were both happy with this. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said this is a chance to fix the deal, rollback Iranian aggression. Saudi Arabia climbed on board, so did the UAE. But so far, it's not really a long list of supporters, we have to say.

SIMON: So, Peter, where does the last couple of days leave the nuclear deal in U.S.-Iranian relations?

KENYON: Well, some think the deal could survive, even if the U.S. pulls out. Others are quite skeptical of that, given what sanctions might do. And as for bilateral relations, from Rouhani's remarks it's clear he's moving to the right. He defended the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the U.S. is trying to sanction. He's challenged them himself in the past. So if he's moving to the right, the U.S. stays on the course it's on, what's most likely is cold, probably hostile, relations in the future.

SIMON: NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul, thanks so much for being with us.

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

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.