A former commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said that if the United States walks away from the nuclear deal, Iran could respond by exiting the international treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
Talking to reporters on April 26, Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, deemed as “very serious” the warnings issued by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif about the United States exiting the nuclear deal with Iran. Zarif was the lead nuclear negotiator for the deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The agreement, between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, was signed in July 2015, but President Donald Trump has stated his intention to walk away from what he calls a “bad deal” made by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“In the case of the US exiting the nuclear deal,” Rezaei said, “we will exit the NPT,” referring to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the arms limitation and disarmament agreement signed by 191 countries. Only four United Nations member states have not signed the treaty. Three of them — Israel, India and Pakistan — are known to have nuclear weapons. North Korea, which has nuclear capabilities but lacks a delivery system, withdrew from the NPT in 2003.
“We incurred heavy costs in the nuclear deal, and we are not ready to have our costs remain pointless and incur new costs,” Rezaei asserted. “Our exit from the NPT, according to its provisions, would be legal.”
Whether Iran is ready to leave the NPT — certainly a decision that would be made by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all foreign policy decisions, and the Supreme National Security Council — it appears that Iran's intelligence agencies, particularly the Intelligence Organization of the IRGC, are preparing for the new reality of increased tensions between Iran and the United States.
With regime change back on the table as US policy, the IRGC has stepped up pressure on the domestic front. The latest individual to be caught up in the recent crackdown on activists and dual nationals is British-Iranian academic Abbas Edalat, professor of computer science and mathematics at Imperial College London, who was reportedly arrested April 15. Edalat, also an activist, is the founder of the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran.
A number of Iranian media outlets published articles based on anonymous sources linking Edalat to foreign organizations and headlined “The arrest of a member of an infiltration network linked to the United Kingdom which has connections with the sedition and deviants.” Given that various news agencies published articles, the information and content were likely supplied by an intelligence agency involved in the arrest.
Use of the term “infiltration” imparts the idea that foreign governments are trying to influence domestic decision-making centers in the country. The word “sedition” points to the 2009 Green Movement protests, while “deviants” invokes the Cabinet of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which certain members were accused of “deviating” onto an incorrect path, veering from conservatism.
The article did not explain how one academic could be linked to totally disparate groups, given that sedition primarily implies Reformists, and the deviant current is associated with Ahmadinejad-era hard-liners. The two groups clashed in the 2009 elections. Given Ahmadinejad’s new role as an opposition figure, it appears that the intelligence agency behind the articles and confirmation of Edalat’s arrest is seeking a wider crackdown to stifle all dissenting voices.
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