President Donald Trump on Tuesday withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear agreement — making good on a longstanding campaign promise and slamming the 2015 accord as "a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.
"It didn't bring calm," Trump told the nation in a speech from the Diplomatic Room of the White House. "It didn't bring peace. And it never will."
"America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail," he said. "We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction.
"We will not allow a regime that chants 'Death to America' to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth.
"Today's action sends a critical message," the president said. "The United States no longer makes empty threats.
"When I make promises, I keep them."
Trump signed a presidential memorandum re-imposing crippling sanctions on Iran that had been waived under the agreement, warning allies they could face similar restrictions if they aided Iran.
"We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction," Trump said. "Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States."
The president faced a May 12 deadline set by U.S. law to decide whether to continue the nuclear deal, which also included Germany, France, Britain, China, and Russia.
The deal immediately brought Iran a $1.7 billion transfer of money, most of it in cash.
President Trump's decision means Iran's government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what is left of the deal. Tehran, however, has offered conflicting statements about what it might do.
Trump has long attacked the Iran deal, signed by President Barack Obama and considered his major diplomatic achievement.
The agreement eased sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program and for not producing an atomic bomb.
Iran also agreed to rigorous inspections as a part of the deal.
But Trump said Tuesday the accord allowed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's regime to "continue enriching uranium, and over time, reach the brink of a nuclear breakout.
"The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for very weak limits on the regime's nuclear activity, and no limits at all on its other maligned behavior, including its sinister activities in Syria, Yemen, and other places all around the world.
"In other words," Trump continued, "at the point when the United States had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime — and it's a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash.
"It was a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States."
President Trump said "a constructive deal could easily have been struck at the time.
"But it wasn't.
"At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program."
Trump noted Israel provided "definitive proof" Iran's promise to stop its nuclear activities "was a lie."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also has opposed the agreement, presented a trove of captured documents last week that proved the Iran had developed a nuclear weapons plan that could be activated at any time.
Trump also noted Iran's military budget had grown nearly 40 percent while "its economy is doing very badly."
The deal, he said, allowed the regime to "build nuclear-capable missiles, support terrorism, and cause havoc throughout the Middle East and beyond," Trump said.
"The agreement was poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time."
He called the deal's sunset provisions "totally unacceptable."
"If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms deal in the Middle East.
"Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs."
President Trump spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping about his decision Tuesday.
Macron vigorously supported the deal and tried to persuade Trump to stay committed to it during a visit to Washington last month.
Macron was to have a conference call with British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about half an hour before Trump's announcement.
In his speech, President Trump then emphasized the benefits to the Iranian people and declared he was "ready, willing and able" to negotiate a new agreement with the Ayatollah's regime.
"Iran's leaders will naturally say that they refuse to negotiate a new deal," Trump said. "They refuse — and that's fine.
"I'd probably say the same thing if I was in their position.
"But the fact is, they are going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people.
"When they do, I am ready, willing, and able."
He added most of Iran's 80 million citizens "have, sadly, never known an Iran that prospered in peace with its neighbors and commanded the admiration of the world.
"But the future of Iran belongs to its people.
"They are the rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land," he said. "They deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history, and gives glory to God.
"Great things can happen for Iran," the president added. "Great things can happen for the peace and stability that we all want in the Middle East.
"There has been enough suffering, death, and destruction," Trump said. "Let it end now."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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