Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has sent a list of demands to France, Germany and the UK which he says must be met if Iran is to stay in the nuclear deal abandoned by Donald Trump, according to a statement posted on the official Iranian government website, dolat.ir, on June 27.
Meanwhile, the same day saw Iran Front Page (IFP) report that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has given major EU states a week to clarify how they are going to live up to their promise to, along with fellow accord signatories Russia and China, save the multilateral nuclear agreement.
The situation for Iran has grown more precarious given moves by Washington this week that show Trump is playing hardball when it comes to Iran’s oil exports, which are crucial to its economic health. A senior US State Department official on June 26 warned that the world must stop buying Iranian oil before November 4 or face a renewed round of American economic sanctions.
The conveyed message ended any hope that the Trump White House would compromise and follow the sanctions model pursued by Barack Obama during his economic campaign against Iran—OPEC’s third biggest oil exporter—prior to the late 2016 signing of the nuclear accord, formally named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Obama’s administration asked buyers of Iranian crude to cut their imports by 20% every 180 days while it ramped up pressure against Iran.
The statement on the official government website did not disclose details of the letters Rouhani sent to French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister Theresa May. But it added that Iran’s president had decided to list Iran’s conditions for staying in the deal to his European partners before it is too late to save the JCPOA from complete ruin. So far, Europe has come up with little to persuade Iran that the accord can still provide it with worthwhile rewards.
Trump, who has claimed the nuclear accord is a disastrous agreement because it is far too favourable to Iranian interests, is aiming to place so much economic pressure on Iran that it is forced to the table to negotiate a new deal that would include stipulations on Iran’s military and behidn-the-scenes political involvement in conflict zones of the Middle East and development of ballistic missiles.
Rouhani rallies the nation
With Tehran suffering some street unrest in recent days which shut down its Grand Bazaar—many protesters were merchants venting their frustration at the collapse of the Iranian rial (IRR) and the lack of access to hard currency at a tolerable rate—Rouhani on June 26 gave a speech broadcast live by state television in which he prepared the Iranian people for tough times ahead, rallying spirits by saying they could survive any difficulties and “bring America to its knees”.
“We will not surrender before America, we will protect our historic dignity,” he said. “We have to show the world that we will tolerate tough times, we will tolerate difficulties but we will not trade in our independence, our freedom or our faith.”
As a pragmatic centrist, Rouhani is now under serious pressure from hardliners who were always opposed to Iran signing the JCPOA, saying that of the signatories the US in particular was not to be trusted. They now feel vindicated.
In comments largely aimed at his domestic critics, Rouhani promised that to ease the burden on the public purse in challenging times his government would cut spending, reduce international travel and fly economy class.
Additionally, he said ministries should issue bonds to give Iranians alternatives to the dollar and the euro for investing their assets.
“If anyone thinks the government will resign or step aside, or go, they are mistaken,” Rouhani added.
Foreign Minister Zarif, meanwhile, met with lawmakers to brief them on the government’s latest nuclear deal standpoint.
The growing discontent in the Iranian parliament over Rouhani’s performance was illustrated by the issuing of a letter, signed by 187 MPs—more than half of the total—asking that the president make changes to his administration’s economic team.
A group of 23 lawmakers took matters further by commencing proceedings to impeach Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli for failing to cope with the consequences of the turmoil afflicting Iran's economy.
Khamenei warns “those who disrupt economic security”
With business at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar back to normal on June 27, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took a chance to warn against further trouble and demanded that the judiciary punish those “who disrupt economic security”
“The atmosphere for the work, life and livelihood of the people must be secure,” he said in a meeting with judiciary officials, according to his official website. “And the judiciary must confront those who disrupt economic security.”
In his response to the Tehran protests, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted: “It should surprise no one #IranProtests continue. People are tired of the corruption, injustice & incompetence of their leaders. The world hears their voice.”
The rial traded at 78,500 against the dollar in the unofficial market on June 27, according to foreign exchange website Bonbast.com. That was an improvement on the levels above 92,000 seen at the start of the week. At the end of last year, the currency traded at 43,000 to the USD.