Iranian President Hassan Rouhani once again shrugged off criticism from his hard-line critics at home by throwing his full weight behind the 2015 nuclear deal, which is hanging by a thread due to the US pullout in May 2018.
Addressing a meeting of local officials in the southeastern city of Kerman Nov. 12, Rouhani said the phased reduction of commitments his administration has started is the "right path" of "resistance" against what Iran laments as the European signatories' failure to live up to their side of the agreement.
"Israeli pressure and Saudi money forced [US President Donald] Trump into withdrawal from the accord," Rouhani declared, suggesting that his September visit to New York could have yielded some compromise with the United States if "someone other than Trump" was in the Oval Office.
Earlier, Rouhani told crowds of people — among them protesters — in the southeastern city of Rafsanjan that Iran will not depart from the deal that is also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. "Staying [in the deal] will lead us to a great political, security and defense achievement next year," he noted. The Iranian president was referring to the potential termination of UN Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747 concerning a set of arms embargoes on the Islamic Republic. If the UN nuclear watchdog finds Iran in full compliance with the pact, those embargoes will be lifted as of Oct. 18, 2020.
But Rouhani's remarks were not welcome by hard-liners, who insist that what serves Iran's interests is a complete departure from the agreement. Ultraconservative newspaper Kayhan attacked the president for failing to truly heed the crowd's discontent with economic grievances. Rouhani's speech, according to the paper, was meant to appease the Europeans and "had them rest assured that Iran will not walk away from the accord."
No sign of that appeasement, however, was signaled in a statement issued by the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and the High Representative of the European Union, who had convened in Paris to discuss Iran's renewed enrichment activities at its Fordow nuclear facility.
The officials warned they were "extremely concerned" that Iran's breaches will complicate "de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East." The European signatories also claimed to have fully honored their commitments, an assertion that drew disdain from Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. "YOU? Really? Just show ONE that you've upheld in the last 18 months," he tweeted. Zarif lashed out at the European side for "procrastinating" when Iran had gone the extra mile to "exhaust" disputed mechanisms enshrined in the pact.
In its fourth and latest step away from the nuclear deal, Tehran started feeding centrifuges at Fordow with uranium hexafluoride Nov. 6. Iran's hard-liners initially downplayed the move, saying it will fall to deaf ears in Europe and do little to help the Islamic Republic reap the accord's expected benefits. Yet in a slight shift, the anti-West daily Javan — representing the die-hard section of those critics — said the message of Iran's latest breaches "seems to have been received" by the Europeans, and "their Paris meeting demonstrated how seriously they had taken Iran's fourth step."
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