Iran May Remain in Nuclear Deal, 'Despite America,' Rohani Says

Facing pressure to pull out of deal, Iranian president says Tehran will stay in pact if remaining partners 'continue to abide by agreement'

President Hassan Rouhani giving a speech on Iranian TV in Tehran on May 8, 2018.
HO/AFP

Iranian President Hassan Rohani reiterated on Sunday that Tehran would remain committed to its 2015 nuclear deal if its interests can be protected and said the U.S. withdrawal from the accord was a "violation of morals". 

"The U.S. withdrawal ... is a violation of morals, the correct way to carry out politics and diplomacy and against international regulations," Rohani during a meeting with visiting Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena. 

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"If the remaining five countries continue to abide by the agreement, Iran will remain in the deal despite the will of America," Rohani said in remarks carried by state television.

Europe’s heavyweight economies took steps on Friday to safeguard their commercial and political interests in Iran, seeking to keep the nuclear deal with Tehran alive after Washington pulled out and said sanctions would follow.

Germany, France have significant trade links with Iran and remain committed to the nuclear agreement, as does Britain, and all three countries’ foreign ministers plan to meet on Tuesday to discuss it.

That is part of a flurry of diplomatic activity lined up following Tuesday’s unilateral withdrawal from what U.S. President Donald Trump called “a horrible, one-sided deal”, a move accompanied by the threat of penalties against any foreign firms doing business in Iran.

However, Rohani faces pressure from within to leave the deal, and the deputy head of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards said Thursday that EU countries are powerless to salvage the nuclear deal.

Brigadier General Hossein Salami said Europe "cannot act independently over the nuclear deal," the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Rohani said on Tuesday that Europe had only a "limited opportunity" to preserve it.

On Wednesday Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast doubt on the ability of the European signatories to guarantee Tehran's interests, adding: "I do not trust these countries either."

Khamenei has the final say on all state matters and commands the loyalty of the Guards, which has huge political and economic influence domestically.

Salami said Iran's enemies were not seeking military confrontation. "They want to pressure our country by economic isolation ... Resistance is the only way to confront these enemies, not diplomacy," Fars quoted him as saying.

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Trump also said on Tuesday he would revive U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, penalising foreign firms doing business with Tehran and further undermining what he called "a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made".

Europeans fear a collapse of the deal could raise the risk of deepening conflicts in the Middle East.

Early on Thursday, Iranian forces launched their first attack on Israel from inside Syria, firing rockets at army bases in the Golan Heights, Israel said.

That prompted one of the heaviest Israeli barrages against Syria since the conflict there began in 2011.

The pact, the signature foreign policy achievement of Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, was designed to prevent Iran developing a nuclear bomb in exchange for lifting most sanctions that had crippled its economy. Sanctions were removed in 2016.

Trump complained that the agreement failed to address Iran’s ballistic missile programme, its nuclear activities beyond 2025 or its role in conflicts in the Middle East, where Tehran has been involved in a proxy war from Lebanon to Yemen for decades.