President makes overture to other signatories
DUBAI: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said yesterday that, if its interests were protected, Tehran would remain committed to its 2015 nuclear deal, which his foreign minister hoped could be redesigned without Washington. Tuesday's US withdrawal from the accord was a "violation of morals", Rouhani said in remarks carried by state television. "If the remaining five countries continue to abide by the agreement, Iran will remain in the deal despite the will of America," he said during a meeting with Sri Lanka's president.
US President Donald Trump's pullout has upset Washington's European allies, cast uncertainty over global oil supplies and raised the risk of conflict in the Middle East. It has also highlighted divisions among Iran's political elite. Rouhani made similarly conciliatory comments on Tuesday, and on Saturday his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, embarked on a tour of other signatory nations to the accord, state media reported, in a last-ditch effort to save it. After arriving in Beijing yesterday, Zarif said: "We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive (nuclear) agreement."
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said he believed Zarif's tour would "improve countries'... understanding of Iran's position." and help Tehran protect its "legitimate national interests". Rouhani has said Iran would stay committed to the deal, which Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia also signed, provided those powers could ensure Iran was protected from sanctions against key sectors of its economy such as oil. The three European states have also recommitted to the agreement, but senior cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University on Friday that Europe was not to be trusted.
The head of the elite Revolutionary Guards also warned against relying on foreign powers to guarantee Iran's interests. "America's exit aims to break the Iranian people's resistance, which is not new ...but today's problem is not US sanctions, it's that some officials look towards outside rather than looking at domestic potentials," Guards commander General Mohammad Ali Jafari said, the state news agency IRNA reported. On Wednesday, Jafari had cast doubt on European nations' ability to save the nuclear accord. With the deal on shaky ground in the face of fierce opposition from hardliners at home, some analysts say the pragmatic Rouhani faces the prospect of serving out his second term as a lame duck leader.
Government under fire
As Iran's foreign minister embarked on a diplomatic tour to save the nuclear deal, his government faced mounting pressure from hardliners at home who say the West should never have been trusted. Ayatollah Ali Jannati, the ultra-conservative head of the Assembly of Experts whose responsibilities include choosing the next supreme leader, said the government had already failed to guarantee the country's interests.
President Hassan Rouhani, the key architect of the 2015 agreement, should "present his apologies to the Iranian people for the damage caused in the cadre of the nuclear deal," Jannati said. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Beijing yesterday for the first stop of his tour of the remaining members of the nuclear deal. He is due in Moscow and Brussels in the coming days. Mirroring the line taken by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Jannati said there was little chance the Europeans would provide the assurances needed for Iran to stay in the deal.
The Europeans "have never stopped taking actions against Iran," he wrote. The head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, also criticized "certain officials" who "look to outsiders". "I hope recent events will lead us ending our trust in the West and the Europeans. The Europeans have repeated on several occasions that they will not be able to resist US sanctions," said Jafari, according to the conservative Fars news agency. Around 100 Iranian lawmakers have also signed on to a parliament bill that would set a clear deadline for the government to "obtain necessary guarantees from the Europeans" without which Iran would resume high-level uranium enrichment, according to parliament's official website. - Agencies