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For many, Trump's decision on Tuesday to pull out of the landmark nuclear deal marked the final death knell for the hope created when it was signed in 2015 that Iran might finally escape decades of isolation and US hostility. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

In effect, Trump put the agreement in limbo without killing it off entirely

But his strategy risks setting off a chain of unpredictable consequences

(CNN) —  

President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to pull out of a deal freezing and reversing Iran’s nuclear program if Congress and US allies do not agree to strengthen it, as he unveiled a tough and comprehensive new policy toward the Islamic Republic.

“As I have said many times, the Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” Trump said in a major speech at the White House.

In effect, Trump put the agreement in limbo without killing it off entirely as some backers had feared. But his strategy risks setting off a chain of unpredictable consequences that could end up derailing the deal anyway and eventually raise the risk of war between the US and Iran.

Trump accused Iran of committing “multiple violations of the agreement,” despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency, America’s European allies and even his own government say that Tehran is complying with the 2015 deal agreed by former President Barack Obama and major world powers.

He said that Iran had “failed to meet our expectations in its operations of advanced centrifuges,” and “intimidated” international inspectors into not using their full authority. He also accused the Obama administration of lifting sanctions on Iran under the terms of the deal at a moment when the Iranian clerical regime was about to collapse, an assessment that contradicts the views of many experts. He also ordered US intelligence agencies to mount a new assessment of Iran’s compliance.

The President announced that he would no longer make regular certifications that the lifting of sanctions under the deal had been in US interests.

“We cannot and will not make this certification. We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” he said. “I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.”

He said the deficiencies of the agreement included “sunset” provisions under which limits on Iran’s nuclear program will begin to expire. Proponents of the deal dispute that.

The President warned that the deal was plagued by “insufficient enforcement” and near total silence on the missile program. The Obama administration deliberately excluded other deep disagreements with Iran from the deal, reasoning that its threat would be much worse if he was able to quickly race to a nuclear weapon in a matter of months.

Trump warned that if he did not get the changes he wanted, he would unilaterally kill the deal.

“In the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as President at any time.”