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Hard-liners joined by Reformist in questioning use in staying in Iran nuclear deal

A prominent Iranian Reformist member of parliament publicly questioned the use of remaining in the nuclear accord as Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned of a plot to dupe US President Donald Trump into entering war with Iran.
A view shows the swearing-in ceremony for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani for a further term, at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, August 5, 2017. Nazanin Tabatabaee Yazdi/TIMA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC18FF0579A0

Mahmoud Sadeghi, an Iranian Reformist parliamentarian, has questioned the benefits of Iran staying in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal between Iran and five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany and the European Union, given the exit of the United States and Europe’s inability to provide the promised economic dividends under the deal.

Sadeghi presented his question, which was addressed to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in written form to the parliament’s presiding board. The parliamentarian, who is outspoken and active on social media, tweeted a picture of the question submitted. According to the document, Sadeghi began, “In May of the previous year, the pact-breaking president of the United States of America, contrary to international law, violated his [country’s] official and legal commitments and exited the nuclear deal (JCPOA), and to further pressure the Islamic Republic of Iran has day by day expanded the oppressive sanctions and imposed them on other countries.”

The document continued that while Europe has remained committed to the JCPOA, it is “procrastinating in creating a financial mechanism” to avert US sanctions. While France, Germany and the United Kingdom announced the creation of the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) in January in order to facilitate trade with Iran, Iranian officials have previously stated that the mechanism has not been operationalized.

Of note, the United States recently announced that it would no longer offer sanctions waivers for eight nations that were in November 2018 granted exemptions allowing them to import limited amounts of Iranian oil.

The question, which Sadeghi had worked up to, was why Iran does not exercise its right to exit the accord if it has been breached by the other side, and given the current circumstances: “What use is there in keeping the JCPOA?"

The letter has gotten attention since the Reformists were the chief supporters of reaching a nuclear deal with the West in the first place, hoping that decreased tensions with the United States and Europe would open up the country economically and provide an opportunity to have broader political participation domestically, in line with President Hassan Rouhani’s campaign promises. Now, Sadeghi’s criticisms of the JCPOA are instead similar to conservative criticism of the JCPOA, like that of Kayhan editor Hossein Shariatmadari who wrote in his recent column — titled “Us, JCPOA and nothing else!” — that not only has Europe not saved the JCPOA but it has cooperated with the United States.

“Europe’s response to America’s latest anti-Iranian action, meaning the end of sanctions waivers for Iran’s oil customers was ‘an expression of disappointment,’” Shariatmadari wrote. “Now the United States has no commitments within the JCPOA, Europe has not accepted any of its JCPOA commitments and it is Iran that has made all of the concessions.”

Zarif has not yet responded to the new wave of criticisms of the Rouhani administration’s key foreign policy achievement. He is presently in the United States, where he addressed a summit on multilateralism at the UN on April 24. In an appearance at the Asia Society the same day, Zarif said that he believes Trump’s objectives on Iran differ from that of his national security adviser John Bolton. He noted that Trump was not seeking war with Iran but what he called the “B team” — Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan — is trying to coddle the United States into a war.