President Donald Trump on Monday morning proclaimed Iran would not – or could not – arm itself with nuclear weapons, a succinct statement issued a day after the Middle Eastern country announced it would again retreat from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
"IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON!" Trump tweeted, racking up tens of thousands of responses and reactions on the social media platform where he is known for breaking news, blasting political opponents and unveiling policy.
On Sunday, Iran announced it was bailing on "the last key component of its operational limitations in the JCPOA, which is the 'limit on the number of centrifuges,'" as state media reported it. A similar message was shared by Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister.
"As such, the Islamic Republic of Iran's nuclear program no longer faces any operational restrictions, including enrichment capacity, percentage of enrichment, amount of enriched material, and research and development," Iran's Mehr News Agency relayed. "From here on, Iran's nuclear program will be developed solely based on its technical needs."
Centrifuges – a means to separate material by density, as Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness Executive Director Jim Marra described them – are used in the uranium enrichment process and can be tied back to both power and weapons projects. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in August cautioned Iran likely has aspirations for the latter, not the former.
"They can have nuclear power. The Arabs can have nuclear power. But the fuel has to be supplied outside the Mideast," the South Carolina Republican said at the time, speaking to reporters in Aiken. "If Iran won't accept that deal, it tells you all you need to know about their ambitions."
Iran, though, has said its nuclear program is civilian, and the country has pledged continued cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations watchdog.
"Our inspectors continue to verify and monitor activities in the country," the agency said on Twitter on Monday.
Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and, consequently, slapped Tehran with economic sanctions. The president has been both praised and criticized for doing so. Graham has said there's "no good deal" that allows Iran to enrich uranium or plutonium.
Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists' global security program, on Monday pinned the unraveling of the international nuclear deal on Trump.
"Iran's decision to no longer abide by the technical limits on its uranium enrichment program required by the 2015 Iran deal is regrettable," Lyman said in a sizable statement, "but not unexpected."
"Sunday's announcement, presumably in response to the U.S. assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani," he continued, "is the culmination of a series of steps over the past year in which Iran has been slowly and steadily weakening its compliance with various terms of the agreement."