Trump to announce decision on Iran nuclear deal on Friday

US News: Department of State announces US withdrawal from UN agency Unesco

John Kelly, the White House chief-of-staff, said that US president Donald Trump  was “deep in thought, to say the least, about the way ahead in Iran”. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

John Kelly, the White House chief-of-staff, said that US president Donald Trump was “deep in thought, to say the least, about the way ahead in Iran”. Photograph: Doug Mills/The New York Times

 

US president Donald Trump will announce his decision on the Iran nuclear deal on Friday as the president comes under mounting pressure not to abandon the 2015 agreement reached between Iran and world powers.

Mr Trump will address the nation at lunchtime, and is expected to outline his Middle East strategy, including a decision on whether Iran is in compliance with the terms of the agreement.

The 2015 deal was aimed at restricting Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the easing of sanctions on the Iranian economy.

Under the terms of the agreement struck by the Obama administration, Congress must be updated every 90 days on Iran’s compliance with the deal. But despite reluctantly certifying Iran several times since his inauguration, Mr Trump has suggested in recent weeks that he is preparing to revoke the agreement, describing the deal as an “embarrassment” to the United States in his speech to the UN General Assembly last month.

In a rare public appearance on Thursday, White House chief-of-staff John Kelly said that the president was “deep in thought, to say the least, about the way ahead in Iran”, though he declined to clarify what decision the president would make.

Undermine

The prospect that the United States could undermine a deal that the previous administration agreed, and which was underpinned by a UN resolution, came as the US announced its withdrawal from the UN agency Unesco.

Podcast: Iran Deal in Peril

The Department of State announced on Thursday it would withdraw from the UN body on December 31st and would remain as an observer thereafter, citing the organisation’s anti-Israel bias and the need for reform.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at Unesco, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at Unesco,” the department said in a statement.

The decision is the latest move by the Trump administration to distance itself from multilateral organisations.

But it also marks the latest stage in a difficult relationship between the United States and Unesco.

In 2011 the United States cancelled its contribution to the Paris-based agency to protest over Unesco’s decision to admit Palestine as a full member. Further controversy over Unesco’s stance on Israel erupted in 2015 when it designated the holy site of Hebron in the West Bank as a Palestinian World Heritage site.

Unesco’s director-general Irina Bokova, whose term is coming to an end, expressed regret at the American withdrawal in a statement, stating that Unesco’s work to advance literacy and quality education is “shared by the American people”.

She said that Unesco had “never mattered as much for the United States” at a time when the rise of violent extremism and terrorism “calls for new long-term responses for peace and security, to counter racism and antisemitism, to fight ignorance and discrimination”.

Executive order

Meanwhile, Mr Trump signed an executive order at a ceremony in the White House which may allow small businesses and some individuals to bypass key aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare system also known as Obamacare.

The order, which will allow the purchase of new cross-state health insurance plans as well as new short-term health insurance plans, represents the most significant effort yet by the administration to unroll Obamacare, and reflects growing frustration on the part of the president with Congress’s failure to repeal and replace Mr Obama’s signature healthcare policy.

While critics have argued that the new proposal – which will not come into force until federal agencies pass new regulations – will lead to higher costs and fewer protections for many Americans, the White House championed the order as a way of increasing competition and bringing down prices.

“With these actions we are moving toward lower costs and more options in the healthcare market, and taking crucial steps toward saving the American people from the nightmare of Obamacare,” Mr Trump said as he signed the order in the Roosevelt Room in the White House.

Mr Trump also criticised Democrats and singled out three Republican senators for not backing a Republican healthcare plan.