“We urge you to preserve this critical US strategic asset,” the letter read. The 37 signatories included Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms, former White House science advisers and the chief executive of the world’s largest general society of scientists, The New York Times said.
The letter to Trump says its objective is to “provide our assessment” of the Iran deal since it was put in effect nearly a year ago. On Jan. 16, 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the technical body in Vienna that oversees the accord with teams of inspectors it has sent to Iran, gave its approval, saying Tehran had curbed its nuclear program.
The letter writers said Tehran, as agreed, had shut down roughly two-thirds of its whirling machines for enriching uranium, had exported more than 95 percent of the material it had enriched to four percent and had given up its production of uranium enriched to near 20 percent.
The body of the letter praises the technical features of the Iran accord, and asks Trump to abide by it.
While the deal was opposed by all Republicans in the House and Senate, it is not clear that Trump would move quickly to renege on it. Any effort by the United States to walk away from its terms, or to renegotiate it, would open the way for Iran to insist on changes as well.
Many of the 37 signatories were among the 29 who praised the accord in a letter to President Barack Obama in August 2015, a month after the deal was signed and sharp public debate had begun on its merits.
Others who signed the new letter include Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who, from 1986 to 1997, directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, the birthplace of the bomb. Rush D. Holt, a former congressman and nuclear physicist who now heads the American Association for the Advancement of Science, also signed.
Sidney D. Drell, a Stanford physicist who advised presidents from Nixon to Obama, signed the letter before dying late last month at 90.
Iran and the P5+1 group – the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany – reached the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in July 2015.
Iran has all along highlighted the peaceful nature of its nuclear program, saying it has never had any intention to use it for military purposes. Also, Iran says it is forbidden to use weapons of mass destruction from a religious standpoint, as highlighted on many occasions by the country’s spiritual leaders.
Under the deal, Tehran agreed to limit some aspects of its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of all nuclear-related sanctions.
But during his campaign prior to the November 8 presidential election, Trump promised to annul the deal. He called the pact a "disaster" and "the worst deal ever negotiated".
In a speech to the main Israeli lobbying group in the US, AIPAC, Trump declared that his “No. 1 priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal” and argued that Iran had outmaneuvered the US in winning concessions.
The United States and some of their allies accuse Iran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program.
Iran rejects the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.