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Iranian top brass meet to discuss response to US sanctions

The Iranian state body tasked with monitoring the implementation of the nuclear deal convenes in response to the US Congress’ extension of the Iran Sanctions Act.
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) verified that Iran has met all conditions under the nuclear deal during the E3/EU+3 and Iran talks in Vienna on January 16, 2016.
The historic nuclear accord between Iran and major powers entered into force as the UN confirmed that Tehran has shrunk its atomic programme and as painful sanctions were lifted on the Islamic republic. / AFP / POOL / KEVIN LAMARQUE

After a week of heavy pressure on the administration of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and senior members of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, the Council for Monitoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) held a meeting on Dec. 7 to discuss Washington’s recent move to renew the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA).

Tasnim News Agency reported that after the meeting, the council announced that the renewal of sanctions would be “an evident violation of the nuclear deal.” Tasnim added, “The council has assessed different suggestions for Iran’s reactions, and will take necessary measures to counter all probable future scenarios.” The council provided no further details on Iran’s potential responses and possible measures.

The nuclear deal has once again made headlines since the US House of Representatives voted to renew the ISA on Nov. 15. The Senate approved the 10-year extension of the act on Dec. 1, sending the measure to the White House for President Barack Obama to sign the bill into law.

Tehran considers the renewal of the ISA to be a violation of the July 2015 JCPOA, which laid out a framework for lifting nuclear-related sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on the country’s nuclear program.

On Nov. 23, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the extension of the ISA would breach the nuclear deal and threatened retaliation. Moreover, Rouhani has condemned the renewal of sanctions, and in a Dec. 6 meeting with Iranian students at Tehran University announced that the Council for Monitoring the JCPOA would soon convene.

On Dec. 7, Iran also submitted an official letter of complaint to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, denouncing the renewal of the ISA.

Meanwhile, Iranian politicians and commentators have proposed various ways of reacting to the 10-year extension of the ISA. The Reformist Aftab-e Yazd daily on Dec. 7 published the remarks of politicians and media figures from across the political spectrum. Conservative former member of parliament Esmail Kowsari told the daily, “The monitoring council should announce that we will immediately increase the number of centrifuges to what we had before the nuclear deal … and they should resume the 20% enrichment of uranium.” He continued, “We must show to Americans that we don’t joke around with them if they break their promises.”

Moreover, Mohammad Sadegh Javadi Hesar, a Reformist activist, told the daily that the renewal of sanctions against Iran is a plan by the United States to force Tehran to halt the implementation of the nuclear deal. He stated, “The JCPOA is an international obligation, and the monitoring council should not react to that in a retaliatory manner. The monitoring council should submit our complaint to the international body supervising the implementation of the JCPOA.”

Iran’s Council for Monitoring the JCPOA consists of eight senior politicians: President Rouhani; parliament Speaker Ali Larijani; Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif; Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan; Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Adm. Ali Shamkhani; head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi; former chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili; and Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign policy adviser to Iran's supreme leader.

These eight figures were appointed to the council by the Supreme National Security Council after an Oct. 21, 2015, letter by Ayatollah Khamenei in which he conditionally approved the nuclear deal. “Any comments suggesting the sanctions structure will remain in place would be a violation of the JCPOA,” the letter stated. He also listed nine key conditions to implement the deal and ordered the establishment of a special supervisory unit to ensure proper implementation of the JCPOA.

Meanwhile, conservatives have criticized the council’s reactions to the extension of the ISA. One Twitter user in a sarcastic post wrote, “The council’s plan to react to the extension of [US] sanctions: First, to write a very severe email. Second, to stick their tongues out. Third, to throw two pens [at the Americans].”

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