Before President Donald Trump even said "good morning" in a televised address responding to Iran's strikes on U.S. targets, he announced, "As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon."
It's an often-repeated line from him, but there was one change in U.S. policy Wednesday: Trump called for other world powers to abandon the nuclear accord, which is barely surviving after he withdrew the U.S. in 2018 and Iran has unraveled its cooperation since 2019.
Instead, Trump urged those countries that remain in the deal to pursue negotiations over a new Iran nuclear deal. But in doing so, he attacked the existing one with misinformation -- and analysts say any new negotiations are unlikely because of Trump's maximalist approach to Tehran.
"Iran must abandon its nuclear ambitions and end its support for terrorism," the president said at the White House. "The time has come for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia and China to recognize this reality. They must now break away from the remnants of the Iran deal -- or JCPOA -- and we must all work together toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place."
JCPOA stands for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal's formal name. Under its terms, the U.S., other countries and the United Nations agreed to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran accepting restrictions on its nuclear program, including caps on enriched uranium and centrifuges and inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, a nuclear watchdog.
Since Trump reimposed sanctions and maximized their enforcement last spring, Iran has taken a series of steps to break those caps -- stockpiling more enriched uranium than the 300 kg limit, enriching uranium higher than than 3.75% limit and installing more centrifuges than allowed and operating them in facilities not allowed.
But America's European allies in the deal -- the United Kingdom, France and Germany -- have maintained that it is essential because those IAEA inspections continue and Iran has agreed to never pursue a nuclear weapon, especially as a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, or NPT.
The Trump administration, however, argues that Tehran cannot be trusted to abide by those agreements, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arguing recently that Iran should not be allowed to enrich uranium at all. It's unclear if that is Trump's position for any potential future negotiations, too.
Instead of laying out a road map for talks, Trump took the time on Wednesday to bash the previous deal, saying, "Iran's hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013 and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash."
Trump has made these claims before, but they're no less false. As part of the deal, which was signed in 2015, not 2013, Iran was not given $150 billion, but had billions of its assets unfrozen. That figure could have been as high as $150 billion, but the U.S. Treasury put it closer to $56 billion, while the Central Bank of Iran said it ended up at around $35 billion after Iran paid off its debts.
The Obama administration did agree to pay $1.7 billion to the Iranian government for military equipment that the U.S. government agreed to sell the pro-Western Iranian government in the 1970's and then never delivered after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It was part of a larger arbitration in international court that also saw Iran pay more than $2.5 billion to American citizens and businesses. As part of that payment, $400 million -- the original amount in question -- was paid in cash by the U.S., with a negotiated interest payment of $1.3 billion paid later.
Trump went further, however, saying those "funds made available by the last administration" were used to pay for "the missiles fired last night at us and our allies."
It's a stinging criticism of his predecessor, essentially accusing President Barack Obama of funding an attack against Americans. Trump's broader point is that those payments gave Iran more funds for its military and proxy forces like the Shiite militias in Iraq, but it's also a claim that can't be proven. A senior State Department official told ABC News on Wednesday that the missiles Iran deployed were "retro" and "not new or unique," so perhaps they were made or purchased many years prior to the deal.
Trump also claimed the "very defective JCPOA expires shortly," but parts of the deal never expire, including the IAEA inspections, Iran's signature on the NPT and a commitment not to pursue a nuclear weapon. Certain caps on Iran's enriched uranium stockpile or number of centrifuges do lift and European allies tried to negotiate with Iran and the Trump administration to extend them, but Trump abandoned those efforts and withdrew the U.S.
Critics instead argue that Trump's withdrawal and Iran's response to break its commitments have sped up those expiration dates. While Iran would not have crossed that 300 kg limit on enriched uranium until 2030, for example, it has already done that this past July.
While Trump expressed optimism for a new negotiation with Iran and a new deal, the chances of that are also low. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already said he will not negotiate with Trump, telling Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June, "I don't consider him worthy of even exchanging messages with."