Rouhani warns parliament not to aid ‘enemy’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has defended his deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency against criticism from conservative lawmakers.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has defended his administration’s deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency after conservatives in parliament called for the judiciary to open a legal case against the president. 

Rouhani said that the deal with the IAEA was “artful” in that it fully implemented parliament’s bill restricting IAEA access without opening Iran to accusations of not cooperating with the nuclear watchdog. He accused anyone “distorting” Iran’s accomplishment in this deal of aiding Iran’s enemies.

On Feb. 23 Iran technically suspended its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, which gave the IAEA greater access to Iran’s nuclear program. However, two days prior, Iranian diplomats and IAEA chief Rafael Grossi reached a deal in which Iran would retain certain data for up to three months. If sanctions on Iran are removed, Iran will hand the data over to the IAEA. If the sanctions are not removed, Iran will delete it. 

The United States reapplied sanctions on Iran in 2018 when it exited the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. While the Biden administration campaigned on reentering the deal, it has asked Iran to return to full compliance with the JCPOA before removing sanctions. Tehran has incrementally increased enrichment and taken other measures once the United States exited the deal, but claims that it as permitted to take the steps as part of the text of the JCPOA.

Conservatives in parliament passed a bill in December 2020 that called on Iran to suspend implementation of the Additional Protocol. After the deal with the IAEA was announced, those behind the bill, especially Mojtaba Zolnour, the head of the powerful National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, called for the judiciary to open a case against the president and others involved in the deal with the IAEA.

On Feb. 22, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned members of the Assembly of Experts about divisions. While he publicly backed the legislation, referring to it as a “good bill,” he said of the parliament’s disagreements with the administration, "These differences are solvable and the two sides must cooperation to resolve them. The differences must not widen, which would show division"

Today, Feb. 24, parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf vowed to heed Khamenei’s warning. He said that the Khamenei’s call for “unity and understanding is our responsibility.” Even Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of Kayhan newspaper who opposed the JCPOA and many of Rouhani’s policies, criticized the parliament for the harsh criticism of the administration. In an editorial, he implicitly defended the deal with the IAEA and wrote that objection to it “did not require this volume of protest.”

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