Won’t let nuke deal fiz­zle, Ira­nian of­fi­cial says


Iran will not fall into the “trap” that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is at­tempt­ing to set in or­der to force the col­lapse of the 2015 nu­clear deal, Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani said Wednes­day.

The U.S. “ploy to­day is to be­have in such a way as to have Iran say ‘I am walk­ing away’” from the agree­ment, Rouhani told his Cab­i­net, ac­cord­ing to the state-run Ira­nian Stu­dents News Agency. Iran “needs to be aware not to fall into their trap,” he said.

Rouhani’s re­marks came af­ter the U.S. again made clear its readi­ness to con­front Iran and the ac­cord that scaled back its nu­clear pro­gram in re­turn for sanc­tions re­lief. On Mon­day, the U.S. af­firmed that the Is­lamic Repub­lic has con­tin­ued to meet the agree­ment’s con­di­tions — as the U.S. is re­quired to do ev­ery three months — but hours later im­posed new sanc­tions over what it called Iran’s per­sis­tent ef­forts to desta­bi­lize the Mid­dle East.

The new sanc­tions tar­get 18 Ira­nian in­di­vid­u­als and groups, in­clud­ing an Iran-based com­pany ac­cused of aid­ing the coun­try’s drone pro­gram, a Tur­key-based provider of naval equip­ment, and a China-based net­work that helped se­cure elec­tron­ics for Tehran.

There is “a school of thought in the ad­min­is­tra­tion” that wants to push Iran into walk­ing away from the deal, said Henry Smith, lead an­a­lyst on Iran and the Mid­dle East at the Dubai of­fice of Con­trol Risks, a re­search group. “The motivation for that is to make Iran look like it’s at fault rather than” the U.S., he said. The White House is con­duct­ing a broader re­view of pol­icy to­ward Iran.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lam­basted the Iran deal dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and vowed to dis­man­tle or rene­go­ti­ate it if elected. But he’s now be­ing ad­vised by of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, who don’t seem to “want the U.S. to be viewed as the ag­gres­sor” if the deal were to fall apart, ac­cord­ing to Smith.

“They would much rather that that is per­ceived by the Euro­peans as be­ing Iran’s fault, be­cause other­wise it’s iso­lat­ing,” he said.

Later Wednes­day, Gen. Mo­ham­mad Ali Ja­fari, head of Iran’s pow­er­ful Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard, warned the U.S. against im­pos­ing sanc­tions on the paramil­i­tary group. He said the Guard’s mis­sile pro­gram is not ne­go­tiable and hinted that new sanc­tions could put U.S. mil­i­tary bases in the re­gion in dan­ger.

“If the U.S. in­tends to pur­sue sanc­tions on the Guard, it should first dis­as­sem­ble its mil­i­tary bases within 1,000 kilo­me­ters, or 620 miles,” Ja­fari was quoted as say­ing by state TV, ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to the range of Ira­nian mis­siles.

Viewed from Tehran, it’s the U.S. that hasn’t been liv­ing up to its end of the bar­gain. By press­ing busi­nesses not to work with Iran, Ira­nian of­fi­cials say, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is un­der­min­ing the pact’s ob­jec­tive of nor­mal­iz­ing trade, pre­vent­ing Iran from ben­e­fit­ing from the ac­cord while ap­pear­ing to up­hold it.

Iran has boosted oil ex­ports and at­tracted for­eign in­vest­ment since sanc­tions re­lief was im­ple­mented in Jan­uary 2016. But a set of U.S. sanc­tions not re­lated to the agree­ment pre­vent most Amer­i­can en­ti­ties from do­ing busi­ness with Iran.

Un­der the agree­ment, Iran is al­lowed to en­rich and store some ura­nium for en­ergy pro­duc­tion, al­though it had to re­duce its ura­nium stock­pile by 96 per­cent, idle many of its en­rich­ment cen­trifuges and pour con­crete into its heavy water nu­clear reactor. The ad­min­is­tra­tion of former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in­sisted the pro­vi­sions would slow the time it would take Iran to pro­duce nu­clear weapons, some­thing Iran has said it wasn’t try­ing to do.

Rouhani said Iran will re­spond with coun­ter­steps to any new U.S. sanc­tions that vi­o­late the terms of the nu­clear deal. If the U.S. wants “to im­ple­ment sanc­tions un­der any pre­text or ex­cuse, the Ira­nian na­tion will re­spond ac­cord­ingly,” he said in com­ments broad­cast on state tele­vi­sion. “When it comes to con­gres­sional leg­is­la­tion, our par­lia­ment will ap­prove cor­re­spond­ing mea­sures.”

As the U.S. an­nounced the new sanc­tions, Iran’s par­lia­ment moved to in­tro­duce a bill that would in­crease fund­ing for the Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard and the coun­try’s mis­sile pro­gram, over which the U.S. Congress is con­sid­er­ing new sanc­tions. The Ira­nian leg­is­la­tion would need to be ap­proved by the par­lia­ment and the in­flu­en­tial Guardian Coun­cil of Is­lamic law ex­perts and jurists.

The five other deal sig­na­to­ries, which in­clude the U.K., France and Rus­sia, have con­tin­ued to back the land­mark for­eign pol­icy suc­cess of the Obama pres­i­dency. The In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, which mon­i­tors Iran’s com­pli­ance with the ac­cord, has found that it has largely met its obli­ga­tions.

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