In Iran, both government officials and regular citizens have reacted with anger to the Oct. 13 speech made by US President Donald Trump on his new Iran strategy. Though Trump attempted to distinguish between the Iranian people and the Iranian state, his reference to the “Arabian Gulf” instead of the "Persian Gulf" caused widespread outrage among ordinary Iranians, with #NeverTrustUSA trending on Twitter. The term Arabian Gulf was first used by pan-Arab movements in Iraq in the 1960s and then by nationalist Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser in reaction to Tehran’s siding with Israel in its conflicts with Arab states.
Shortly after Trump’s speech, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gave a televised address in which he slammed the US president, urging him to be ethical and polite.
Mentioning Trump’s use of the term Arabian Gulf, Rouhani said, “I invite the US president to read more about history and geography. … How [has] a president not yet learned the name of a famous, historical and global gulf — the Persian Gulf, through which, unfortunately, American warships are constantly coming and going. He should have at least asked his military advisers how they write the name of this gulf on their maps.”
Noting Trump’s threats to kill the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iranian president said, “As long as our rights are guaranteed, and as long as our interests require, and as long as we enjoy its benefits, we will respect the JCPOA within the framework of the interests of our nation.” He added, “[Trump] says that, in cooperation with Congress, he will amend the JCPOA. [Seemingly], he doesn’t know that [it is not possible] to add any clause, article and paragraph to the JCPOA.”
Hinting at Europe’s opposition to Trump’s strategy toward Iran, Rouhani continued, “The great people of Iran saw that for the first time the United States took a stand against a multilateral international commitment, and immediately, major countries of the world and the European Union took a stand against the United States. The US today is lonelier than ever on the JCPOA and its conspiracies against the Iranian nation.”
On Oct. 14, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif joined Rouhani in condemning Trump’s speech.
Mentioning Trump’s assertion that Iran is not committed to its obligations under the nuclear deal, Zarif said in an interview on Iranian state TV, “It has been mentioned in the JCPOA that the only center responsible for pursuing and determining Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA is the International Atomic Energy Agency.” He added, “The US domestic laws are not valid for us and [the Trump administration] is obligated to act within the framework of the JCPOA, which is [endorsed by] a resolution of the UN Security Council.”
Zarif continued, “We are taking appropriate measures in response to US actions. The Committee for Monitoring the JCPOA [an Iranian committee consisting of senior officials] will determine the necessary framework for responding to the US.”
Zarif said, “We have written nine letters [to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini as the coordinator of the JCPOA] about the US delay or failure in honoring its JCPOA commitments.” He added that he will write a letter “tomorrow” or “the day after tomorrow” to Mogherini about Trump’s remarks.
Zarif continued, “If they revive the sanctions and we face an inability to use [the JCPOA] in oil, gas and shipping arenas, and for bringing our money to the country, [then] we have the right to make a decision about the continuation of our presence in the JCPOA.”
Asked what will happen to Iran’s multibillion-dollar contract with US airplane manufacturer Boeing, Zarif said, “In our view, there is no problem [regarding the deal], but if the US government impedes this contract, then they haven’t honored their commitments under the JCPOA.”
Zarif also tied Trump’s use of the term Arabian Gulf to Saudi Arabia and other neighboring Arab states, saying that the US president did it to please these states, referring to their status as major purchasers of US weapons.
In reaction to European officials’ remarks about the US president’s speech, Zarif said, “The reaction of Mrs. Mogherini and European countries to the remarks of Trump is not limited to the JCPOA, but they are concerned about the [broader] behavior of the Trump government. [US] failure to comply with international obligations can create problems for the international order.” Zarif added, “This is a positive point for us because, previously, every time the US government decided to impose sanctions on us, Europe supported them, but today, the Europeans have stood against the US."
He added: “We will see in the coming months to what extent Europe will resist the excessive US [demands], and this will demonstrate whether the JCPOA will continue [to remain in place] and whether Europe can play a role on the international stage.”
Meanwhile, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned the United States, saying, “If the JCPOA is scrapped, we will stop implementing the Additional Protocol, because we are implementing it voluntarily and it hasn’t been ratified by parliament.”
He stated, “We are committed to the inspections [by the International Atomic Energy Agency] under the JCPOA, and we are pursuing these commitments within this framework, but we won’t fulfill any other demand outside this framework.”