This week Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif walked back suggestions that the United States and Iran are close to talks. With Zarif's attendance at the G7 summit, many observers had anticipated the announcement of a meeting between Iranian and American officials. Rouhani had even publicly said he’d be willing to meet with anyone to solve the country’s economic problems. But in recent days both he and Zarif have stated that the United States must end the economic sanctions it reimposed after its exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last year.
Despite the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord, Iranian officials are continuing to publicly defend the deal. Ali Akbar Salehi, who is currently head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and was one of the chief technical negotiators who worked on the details of the deal, spoke directly to critics. “The JCPOA did not suspend Iran’s nuclear program,” Salehi said. “History will show this but right now there are many things we cannot say.”
Salehi said that the energy organization has increased its employees from 14,000 to 15,000, showing that the JCPOA did not force Iran to suspend its nuclear program, as some domestic critics contend. On the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, Salehi added that in “two or three months good news will be reported on this project.” He did not elaborate.
Iran is currently gradually reducing its commitments under the JCPOA in the hopes of pressuring Europe to help facilitate its oil sales, which the United States sanctioned after withdrawing from the JCPOA. Iran is expected to announce its third step in reducing nuclear commitments on Sept. 6.
While the administration publicly demands conditions for talks with the United States, Iran’s military officials have been downplaying the possibility of confrontation and war with the United States. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' aerospace force, said that after Iran downed the US drone in June, the intelligence services of a friendly nation warned the IRGC that the United States would retaliate militarily. “We knew this would not happen,” Hajizadeh said, explaining that talk of war between the two sides was designed to force Iran to negotiate with the United States.
Hajizadeh said that the downing of the drone “removed the shadow of war” between the two sides, as it proved Iran's capabilty to threaten US bases in the region.
Abdulrahman Mousavi, Iran’s army chief, spoke at a military ceremony today about US strategy in the Persian Gulf. He said that a coalition in the Persian Gulf, however unlikely it is to ever form, is a tactic to force Iran into concessions. Mousavi added, “As far as the armed forces are concerned, in ensuring security and confronting instability, there will be no compromise.”
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