President Rouhani’s centerwing government says it will not be part of a pact that hasn’t even been implemented by other signatories.
Iran has just announced that it would no longer adhere to parts of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, marking a significant shift in tone within the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the man who spearheaded Iran’s entry into the pact in the first place.
Tehran announced it would withdraw from clauses that pertain to its stocks of low-enriched uranium and heavy water, components required for an atomic bomb.
Critics say Tehran feels less incentive to adhere to the pact after the Trump administration unilaterally left the nuclear deal last year, imposing harsh sanctions against Tehran instead and leading an otherwise moderate government that joined forces with former president Barack Obama.
As a result, Iran’s moderate government led by Hassan Rouhani, who has been heavily criticised by the country’s hardliners for having trusted the Obama administration at the time, has instead sought retaliatory measures against the current US administration.
Still, Iran’s partial withdrawal from the deal, which was neutralised by Rouhani’s assertion that Tehran would be “ready for negotiations”, is in stark contrast with the Trump administration’s full withdrawal after months of incendiary rhetoric.
“The path we have chosen today is not the path of war, it is the path of diplomacy but ... with a new language and a new logic,” Rouhani said on Wednesday, notifying his European nuclear deal partners that the deal could totally collapse if they do not demonstrate enough resilience to sustain it by standing up to Washington.
“Our move is to rescue the JCPOA, not destroy it. We seek moderation and peace, we have not violated our obligations. We haven’t left the negotiation table. And you have repeatedly told us you won’t either.”
Rouhani asked Europeans to make their mind up on seriously sticking the deal within a period of 60 days, translating roughly to a choice between following Trump’s hardline policies and staying in the deal by buying Tehran’s oil despite the US sanctions.
Tehran clearly does not want to fully exit the deal before seeing what Europeans will do to protect the accord.
Rouhani indicated that if the European leadership does not do enough to cover damages inflicted on Iran as a result of US sanctions, Tehran will resume higher uranium enrichment, which can eventually supply the country to have weapons-grade material to build an atomic bomb.
He also signaled that Tehran will restart construction of the Arak nuclear reactor, which has been closed down in accordance with the international agreement.
The deal had created a mechanism called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to limit Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for easing economic sanctions against Tehran.
The co-signatories of the JCPOA were the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany – the permanent members of the UN – as well as the European Union.
The Obama deal had offered Iran billions in sanction relief.
While Tehran has remained in compliance with the nuclear deal since its signing, Washington left the deal without citing any specific violations. Still, the Trump administration has blamed Iran for increasing tensions between the two states after leaving the deal.
But Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently stated that the US withdrawal from the deal and the imposition of sanctions against Tehran amounted to “a war crime”.
Rouhani’s announcement of the partial withdrawal came a day after the US deployed a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to respond to what US National Security Adviser John Bolton called Iran’s “troubling and escalatory” actions.
On the other hand, Trump’s staunchest ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has naturally joined the US choir to put more pressure over Iran since Tel Aviv has been an avid opponent of the deal since the very beginning and harshly criticised the Obama administration at the time.
“We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. We will continue with the struggle against those who seek to destroy our lives,” said Netanyahu of the Islamic republic, which has openly advocated resistance against Zionism since the 1979 Iranian revolution.