Iran warns US against pulling out of nuclear deal

Foreign minister says Tehran could restart nuclear activities if Trump exits pact

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif:   “The US is sending a very dangerous message to the people of Iran and the people of the world. It says you never come to an agreement with the US.” Photograph: EPA/Raul Martinez

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: “The US is sending a very dangerous message to the people of Iran and the people of the world. It says you never come to an agreement with the US.” Photograph: EPA/Raul Martinez

 

Iran’s top diplomat has issued a stark warning to Donald Trump that if he follows through on his threat to scrap a 2015 nuclear agreement in three weeks’ time he will have to “face the consequences” that will not be “pleasant” for the United States.

Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif painted a bleak picture of the prospects for survival of the nuclear deal, which Trump has threatened to tear up on May 12th by refusing to waive a set of sanctions – a move that is integral to the agreement.

Mr Zarif indicated that should the US effectively pull out Iran would refuse to stay inside the deal alongside the Europeans, calling that option “highly unlikely”. An option actively being considered by Tehran, by contrast, was to withdraw entirely from the deal by returning to uranium enrichment.

Other proposals being floated in the Iranian parliament, Mr Zarif said, involved more “drastic” measures, though he would not specify what those entailed.

In an interview with reporters at an Iranian official residence overlooking New York’s Central Park, Mr Zarif said that the Trump administration had the “option to kill the deal, but they have to face the consequences”.

“We will make our decision based on our national security interest when the time comes, but whatever it is it will not be very pleasant for the United States, I can say that.”

Sanctions

He accused the US of doing everything in its power to prevent Iran from engaging economically with the rest of the world, thus blocking Tehran from benefitting from the easing of sanctions permitted under Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He said that and other moves by the US amounted to a breach of the deal that had been going on for the past 15 months.

“I don’t think that a country that has been in breach for at least the last 15 months is in a position to make any new demands,” he said.

Mr Zarif is in New York to attend a UN meeting on peace-building. In the course of a six-day stay in the city he will have a one-on-one audience with the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.

As the final countdown begins to the next sanctions waiver deadline, and amid Mr Trump’s grand posturing, European states are scrambling to see what can be done to salvage matters should the US president stand by his word and pull the rug out from under the deal. But Mr Zarif gave very little sense of hope that anything would be possible.

He said it was “highly unlikely” that Iran would stay inside the JCPOA if the US effectively pulled out. “It’s very important for Iran to receive the benefits of the agreement – there’s no way that Iran would do a one-sided implementation of it.”

He said France and Germany could try and persuade the US to deflect from the collision course it was on, but he predicted such efforts would be “fruitless”.

Dangerous message

And he warned of the danger to world peace posed by Mr Trump’s stance. “The US is sending a very dangerous message to the people of Iran and the people of the world. It says you never come to an agreement with the US. The situation is creating an impression globally that agreements don’t matter.”

The Iranian regime has been heavily criticised in recent months for its role in propping up Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, despite his complicity in the death of thousands of civilians and his willingness to use chemical weapons against his own people.

Mr Zarif insisted that Iran was not engaged in the Syrian civil war to assist Mr Assad but to combat the threat of extremist groups, notably Isis. – Guardian