WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the landmark nuclear accord with Iran on Tuesday, abruptly restoring harsh sanctions in the most consequential foreign policy action of his presidency. He declared he was making the world safer, but he also deepened his isolation on the world stage and revived doubts about American credibility.
The 2015 agreement, which was negotiated by the Obama administration and included Germany, France and Britain, had lifted most U.S. and international economic sanctions against Iran. In exchange, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program, making it impossible to produce a bomb and establishing rigorous inspections.
But Trump, a severe critic of the deal dating back to his presidential campaign, said in a televised address from the White House that it was “defective at its core.”
U.S. allies in Europe had tried to keep him in and lamented his move to abandon it. Iran’s leader ominously warned his country might “start enriching uranium more than before.”
The sanctions seek to punish Iran for its nuclear program by limiting its ability to sell oil or do business overseas, affecting a wide range of Iranian economic sectors and individuals.
Major companies in the U.S. and Europe could be hurt, too. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that licenses held by Boeing and its European competitor Airbus to sell billions of dollars in commercial jetliners to Iran will be revoked. Certain exemptions are to be negotiated, but Mnuchin refused to discuss what products might qualify.
He said the sanctions will sharply curtail sales of oil by Iran, which is currently the world’s fifth largest oil producer. Mnuchin said he didn’t expect oil prices to rise sharply, forecasting that other producers will step up production.
Iran’s government must now decide whether to follow the U.S. and withdraw or try to salvage what’s left with the Europeans. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he was sending his foreign minister to the remaining countries but warned there was only a short time to negotiate with them.
Laying out his case, Trump contended, “If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”
The administration said it would re-impose sanctions on Iran immediately but allow grace periods for businesses to wind down activity. Companies and banks doing business with Iran will have to scramble to extricate themselves or run afoul of the U.S. government.
Meanwhile, for nations contemplating striking their own sensitive deals with Trump, such as North Korea, the withdrawal will increase suspicions that they cannot expect lasting U.S. fidelity to international agreements it signs.
Former President Barack Obama, whose administration negotiated the deal, called Trump’s action “misguided” and said, “The consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.”
Yet nations like Israel and Saudi Arabia that loathed the deal saw the action as a sign the United States is returning to a more skeptical, less trusting approach to dealing with adversaries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Trump’s announcement as a “historic move.”
Trump, who repeatedly criticized the accord during his presidential campaign, said Tuesday that documents recently released by Netanyahu showed Iran had attempted to develop a nuclear bomb in the previous decade, especially before 2003. Although Trump gave no explicit evidence that Iran violated the deal, he said Iran had clearly lied in the past and could not be trusted.
Iran has denied ever pursuing nuclear arms.
There was a predictably mixed reaction from Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the Iran deal “was flawed from the beginning,” and he looked forward to working with Trump on next steps. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, slammed Trump in a statement, saying this “rash decision isolates America, not Iran.”
In a burst of last-minute diplomacy, punctuated by a visit by Britain’s top diplomat, the deal’s European members had given ground on many of Trump’s demands for reworking the accord, according to officials, diplomats and others briefed on the negotiations. Yet the Europeans realized he was unpersuaded.
Trump spoke with French President Macron and Chinese leader Xi Jinping about his decision Tuesday. Hours before the announcement, European countries met in Brussels with Iran’s deputy foreign minister for political affairs, Abbas Araghchi.
In Iran, many are deeply concerned about how Trump’s decision could affect the already struggling economy. In Tehran, Rouhani sought to calm nerves, smiling as he appeared at a petroleum expo. He didn’t name Trump directly, but emphasized that Iran continued to seek “engagement with the world.”
The first 15 months of Trump’s presidency have been filled with many “last chances” for the Iran deal in which he’s punted the decision for another few months, and then another. As he left his announcement Tuesday, he predicted that Iranians would someday “want to make a new and lasting deal” and that “when they do, I am ready, willing and able.”
BURLEY — Police say a Nampa man entered a woman’s apartment while she was showering, put on a glove and threatened her with a knife.
Rogelio Gonzalez-Huerta, 23, is charged with felony aggravated assault and misdemeanor false imprisonment and trespassing.
Cassia County Sheriff detectives say he is the business partner of a man who witnessed the murder of Rafael Gil Vargas, 43, in Minidoka on April 28 and that his vehicle was involved in the crime.
Vargas’s daughter Nallely Vargas-Juarez, 19, was also shot in the hand.
Denis O. Lopez-Serrano, 22, of Rupert is charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and two counts of first-degree kidnapping in connection with the shootings.
Deputies were called to the woman’s apartment on Friday evening and found Gonzalez-Huerta still inside. A police report says the woman was “in a panic stage and pacing back and forth,” when deputies arrived.
The woman said that Gonzalez-Huerta is an ex-boyfriend of her sister.
She told deputies when she arrived home Gonzalez-Huerta and the man who police say witnessed the murder were both in her apartment parking lot and she told them they were not welcome and to leave. The other man left but Gonzalez Huerta stayed and she told him to leave again, the police report says.
She went inside her apartment to take a shower because she was meeting a friend and she heard the door open, so she called out her sister’s name.
The woman told police she realized it was Gonzalez-Huerta in her apartment, and she told him to get out and called her sister, the police report says. She told police she grabbed a towel and walked past him to her room where she closed the door and started to put her clothes on. But Gonzalez-Huerta opened the door to her room and kept saying she had two minutes to change. She ran to the door and he stopped her and put on a black glove and grabbed a knife out of his pocket.
He said “you don’t know what your sister got you in to,” the woman told deputies. According to the police report, the woman stalled and begged Gonzalez-Huerta to leave her alone. Eventually, he said he wasn’t going to hurt her, and a friend of the woman’s arrived. The two ran away and took off in a car but turned around when they heard police arriving.
According to the police report, Gonzalez-Huerta told the woman it was a joke and he wasn’t going to hurt her.
As Gonzalez-Huerta was being detained, he told deputies that he did not have a knife. They later reported finding a knife in the woman’s bedroom but did not recover the glove.
A preliminary hearing is set for May 18 in Cassia County Magistrate Court.
Kalie Wright, Miss Minnesota USA, prepares to be interviewed every day. She practices each day on the phone with her best friend, Miss California USA.
To Wright, being interviewed is an art. She responds thoughtfully, but doesn’t alienate. She is charming without being overbearing. Needless to say she is a pro.
Wright, 25, may be Miss Minnesota USA, but she still has roots in the Magic Valley. She’s on her way to the upcoming Miss USA competition on May 21.
Wright was born in Boise, and her family moved to Kimberly, where she was raised. Wright graduated from Kimberly High School in 2011. She had a volleyball scholarship to Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Ore.
Wright said she needed money for college, so she did the natural thing: She entered a local pageant. She won and got the scholarship. Wright said this was her first time in a pageant.
After a year at Blue Mountain Community College, she returned to the Magic Valley and went to school at the College of Southern Idaho. In 2015, Wright won Miss Idaho and competed in the Miss America pageant. Two years ago she moved to Minnesota, where she attends Minnesota State University in Mankato.
A major benefit with the pageantry is that it motivates her to take responsibility for her education.
“I have to juggle school, a job and pageantry,” Wright said.
In 2014, Wright was the first Idahoan to win Miss National Sweetheart, and in 2016 she competed for Miss America. With the upcoming Miss USA competition, her mom, Shelly Wright, has given her the nickname of the triple crown winner.
Shelly, a professor of health and wellness at the College of Southern Idaho, said that her family was always focused on sports. Pageantry was completely outside of their realm.
The Miss USA competition will be Wright’s last. It’s a bittersweet moment in her career. She will miss being not only physically healthy but also at her best mentally. Wright said that to even be considered to be Miss USA you must hold the part, you must act like Miss USA.
“While doing pageants I feel like I’m at my best,” Wright said.
Pageantry is a career that is built on comparing one person to another, but Wright is careful to avoid the pitfall of comparing herself to the other contestants. With social media, it’s easy to compare yourself to others she said. But in person, she’s had positive experiences with the other contestants.
“The ones you see are the ones with confidence,” she said. “It’s hard not to be inspired by these women.”
To be Miss USA there are three levels of competition. The interview, the swimsuit and the evening gown. The most intimidating part is the interview, Wright said. The contestant must let the audience get to know them, and they must find a universal message. They must also be relatable.
But don’t worry about Wright for the interview. She practices every day.
At her final pageant, Wright wants to savor every moment.
“I don’t want to focus on a crown,” Wright said. “I would miss out on the entire experience.”
TWIN FALLS — The first full batch of campaign finance reports came out this week, giving the public a glimpse into where candidates are getting their money and how they’re spending it.
It’s been an active primary campaign season in the Magic Valley, as Republican lawmakers in Districts 23, 24, 25 and 27 face an unusually high number of primary challengers and a handful of legislative hopefuls vie for two newly-open seats.
In most cases, incumbents have raised and spent more than their opponents, often with the help of financial backing from various PACs, organizations, companies and fellow lawmakers.
One local primary race stands out as bucking the trend, however. House Seat 23A incumbent Rep. Christy Zito, one of Idaho’s “Liberty Legislators,” reports $9,840 in total donations and roughly $9,340 in campaign expenses for the period starting Jan. 1 and ending Apr. 29.
Her challenger, Oscar Evans of Homedale, has raised several thousand dollars more than Zito and spent nearly twice as much as his opponent. Evans, who markets himself as more moderate in his conservatism, reports approximately $12,300 in donations, including contributions from the Idaho Cattle Association, Idaho Power and the Idaho Association of Realtors.
The retirement of longtime legislators Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, and Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, has created similarly competitive races in Districts 24 and 25.
Laurie Lickley, one of three Republicans running for Bell’s seat in District 25, has raised and spent the most money of any Magic Valley legislative candidate in a contested primary.
She reported collecting roughly $18,300 in monetary donations and spending nearly $19,400 total. Contributions to Lickley’s campaign included a $500 donation from the Speaker of the House, Rep. Scott Bedke of Oakley.
One of Lickley’s two opponents, Glenneda Zuiderveld, isn’t too far behind Lickley in fundraising. She reported collecting $13,830 in donations, including $500 from the Idaho Chooses Life PAC. She’s spent far less than Lickley, however, with just $3,625 in expenditures.
Neither Lickley nor Zuiderveld reported receiving contributions from Bell, who has not publicly endorsed any of the three candidates. A campaign finance report for the third candidate for the seat, B. Roy Prescott, was not available on the Secretary of State’s website as of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Meanwhile, two Republicans are seeking Hartgen’s District 24 seat in the primary: his wife, Linda Wright Hartgen, and “liberty-minded” candidate Rocky Ferrenburg. Democrat Deborah Silver will run against the primary winner in the general election.
Wright Hartgen has taken in $8,200 from donors including Bedke, Bell, and Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls. She also has the financial backing of a number of PACs, including $1,000 from the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation’s Agra-PAC. She reports spending just over $3,400 so far.
Ferrenburg has collected about $2,350 in contributions and spent roughly the same amount. His only donation from an organization or business appears to be $100 from Agenda 1453, a Coeur d’Alene-based PAC that’s named for the year the Ottoman Turks conquered the Eastern Roman Empire, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Not all Magic Valley districts have contested primaries.
In District 26, where the three sitting legislators will each face an opponent in the general election but are unopposed in the primaries, Democratic candidates have out-fundraised their Republican counterparts thus far in at least two races.
While things will likely pick up as we get closer to the general election, District 26 candidates’ pre-primary finance reports show some stark contrasts in early contributions and spending.
Muffy Davis of Ketchum, a Paralympian and motivational speaker who’s challenging Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, reports having collected roughly $23,550 in monetary donations and spent nearly $4,400 total, including in-kind expenditures.
Miller, her incumbent opponent, reports zero dollars in contributions since Jan. 1 but lists a cash balance of $9,530 going into 2018. He spent just over $300 in campaign expenditures this year.
Mike McFadyen, a Republican from Fairfield challenging Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, similarly reports zero dollars in both contributions and expenditures. Toone has raised roughly $3,120 since January, and spent about $1,300 in monetary and in-kind expenditures.
A finance report for incumbent Sen. Michelle Stennett’s general election opponent, Republican Julie Lynn, was not available online as of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
If you do one thing: Twin Falls Public Library’s Kids Club program will feature design-squad activities for elementary school-aged children at 4 p.m. at the library, 201 Fourth Ave. E. Free.
TWIN FALLS — Two economic development agencies will soon become one.
Last month, the board of directors for Southern Idaho Rural Development voted unanimously to move toward a merger with Southern Idaho Economic Development. The SIEDO board also approved the merger on Monday morning.
In the past, SIRD has focused its efforts on rural towns and cities in the eight-county region. SIEDO, on the other hand, was more concerned with attracting manufacturers to the urban areas.
But now, both groups are taking a step back and seeing how they could collaborate efforts. Once the new fiscal year begins in July, SIRD will become a committee under SIEDO.
“We see the impact that the rural work has on our mission,” SIEDO Executive Director Connie Stopher said. “We’re really excited about it. I think it’s a good thing for SIEDO to be focused on the rural communities in the region.”
Julia Oxarango-Ingram, executive director for SIRD, said the merger has been a discussion for several years and told the Times-News she was on board with it. However, at the April 5 board meeting, she advocated for the two being a collaboration, rather than SIRD dissolving under SIEDO as a rural committee.
“I really want to make sure it doesn’t just sort of disappear,” she said in a phone interview.
The changes, she said, have “happened rather quickly.”
Both economic development groups have cities and counties as members — and most SIRD members also pay dues to SIEDO. Some municipalities have been concerned about paying dues to both organizations, SIRD board president and Gooding Mayor Jeff Brekke said. Regarding the merger, “most communities have expressed optimism,” he said.
“Most of them will be saving now under this new structure,” Stopher said.
A city membership costs around $1,500, and the smaller the city, the less they pay, she said.
Oxarango-Ingram has directed SIRD for five years, helping communities by connecting them to resources. The organization’s goal is to draw new businesses and help expand existing businesses and create jobs. It’s primarily funded by an Idaho Department of Commerce grant, and Twin Falls County is the fiscal agent for the group.
Lately, Oxarango-Ingram has put efforts into a rural tourism initiative, which she calls an asset-based approach that is “part and parcel” with her group’s mission. She understands that under SIEDO’s direction, this work might either be discontinued or look differently. But she feels the rural communities on that committee will make their voices heard to get what they want.
“This is a whole new thing,” Oxarango-Ingram said. “I think both groups are re-imagining themselves.”
Stopher says SIEDO’s rural focus will probably be less on tourism and historic building redevelopment, and more on helping existing businesses succeed.
“We really want to help communities to strengthen their economies,” she said.
With low unemployment, SIEDO has had to change its core mission to focus more on workforce retention, she said.
Brekke said Gooding has not seen a lot of tangible economic development from SIRD, and he argues that beautification doesn’t bring much economic vitality. He hopes the committee on SIEDO will instead focus on putting money into towns and taking a “hard line on economic development.”
Twin Falls County, as the fiscal agent, is waiting on a grant application to be approved by Idaho Commerce. Last year, Idaho Commerce granted SIRD $32,000 to help fund the director position.
Once grant money is secured, SIEDO can begin searching for a rural economic development coordinator to lead rural efforts and report to the committee, comprised of current SIRD board members. Oxarango-Ingram said she isn’t sure she will apply for the position when it comes open.
“Probably, I will be moving on,” she said.
Twin Falls County Commissioner and SIEDO board member Don Hall says the rural coordinator under SIEDO will get more assistance with applications, requests for information and other administrative work. Some of that work for businesses can require immediate attention and take hours to complete, he said. Under SIRD, that has been done with one person instead of a whole staff.
“It frees this rural person up to work more closely with the communities,” Hall said. “When you’re a one-person show and you drop everything, you drop everything.”
Both Hall and Stopher say they are committed to retaining the rural focus.
“Some communities haven’t been seeing the results they’ve been wanting,” Stopher said. “The best way I think to serve those communities is to have a really strong rural program.”