President Hassan Rouhani has warned that Iran could quit the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers “within hours” if the Trump administration keeps tightening its unilateral sanctions screw. If Tehran abandoned the agreement, the Islamic Republic would return to its previous nuclear development programme, which would be at a more advanced stage than it was when it was withdrawn in return for the curbing of multilateral sanctions, Rouhani cautioned.
Iran’s political establishment has grown increasingly irritated at Washington’s expansion of targeted sanctions against individuals and entities following the passing of a recent sanctions bill by the US Senate. News agencies reported Rouhani as telling the Iranian parliament that he would prefer to stick with the nuclear deal, which he see as “a model of victory for peace and diplomacy over war and unilateralism”, but that this was not the “only option”.
Again slating President Donald Trump, Rouhani, who at his August 5 inauguration for a second term of office the US president described as a “political novice“, added: “In recent months, the world has witnessed that the US, in addition to its constant and repetitive breaking of its promises in the JCPOA [the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal as it is more commonly referred to], has ignored several other global agreements and shown its allies that the US is neither a good partner nor a reliable negotiating party.”
The Trump administration, the 68-year-old centrist pragmatist and cleric said, “must know that the defeat in the experience of [the nuclear] sanctions dragged their former governments to the negotiating table and if they are willing to return to those experiences, Iran will definitely go back to a situation which is more advanced than at the time of negotiations in a short period, within hours.”
In her latest statement on the JCPOA, Washington’s UN envoy Nikki Haley said: “Iran cannot be allowed to use the nuclear deal to hold the world hostage. Iran, under no circumstances, can ever be allowed to have nuclear weapons... The nuclear deal must not become ‘too big to fail’.”
Trump, however, has lately appeared increasingly isolated in his opposition to the JCPOA, with even his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, saying he does not see eye to eye with the US president over whether Washington should withdraw from it.
The Rouhani administration has so far kept quiet about any possible measures of retaliation against unilateral American sanctions that are hindering Tehran’s attempts to attract more foreign investors. However, increasing pressure from some hardline groups in the country forced the president to make his statement to parliament. On August 13, Iran’s parliament approved more than half a billion dollars to support the country’s ballistic missile development programme and foreign operations of the elite Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in what was seen as a response to the new US sanctions.
Trump is known to be frustrated that the terms of the nuclear deal do not give the Americans any influence over Iran’s extension of its geopolitical influence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other conflict-torn Middle Eastern nations via its backing of militias and deployment of IGRC troops.
On August 14, Rouhani spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone. Rouhani’s office told the media that the two leaders had pledged to build on joint military efforts in the Middle East, adding: “Tehran welcomes the active presence of Russia’s investors... in major infrastructure projects including in the fields of industry and energy.”
At his August swearing-in, Rouhani praised Europe for sending foreign ministers and other senior officials to the ceremony, prior to which he met with European foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. The EU, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and many other countries have continued to pursue new investments in Iran since the JCPOA came into effect and have shown no sign of backing Trump’s preference for disengaging from the agreement.