By Golnar Motevalli
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned that while his country won’t be the first to violate the terms of the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers, it won’t stand by and allow the U.S. to disregard its own obligations.
Rouhani, who was inaugurated to serve a second term earlier this month, said on Tuesday that the U.S. lacked any backing from the other signatories for its hostile stance toward the deal, and that the Trump administration faced “the most difficult circumstances” in trying to upend it.
“Of course, any violations of the commitments carried out by the U.S. we will respond and answer them, but even so, the U.S. faces the most difficult conditions and we are in the best position,” Rouhani said in an interview broadcast on Iranian state television. “We will not be the ones to initiate a violation of the nuclear deal, not ever, but neither will we sit idly by in the face of violations of the deal by others.”
The future of the agreement, which was implemented in January 2016 and viewed as Rouhani’s flagship achievement, has been under threat since Donald Trump took office. In his election campaign, he pledged to tear up the deal, labeling it “horrible.” The agreement lifted some international sanctions on Iran, allowing it, for example, to resume oil sales to Europe.
Rouhani shrugged off any concerns about recent attempts by the U.S. government to influence the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for overseeing Iran’s compliance with the terms of the pact.
“I doubt that the Agency will bow to pressure from the U.S., and neither will we,” Rouhani said.
IAEA inspectors use site visits, remote monitoring and satellite imagery to verify that Iran stays within nuclear production and capacity limits agreed with diplomats from China, the European Union, Russia and the U.S. They’ve produced seven reports since January 2016 showing Iran to be in broad compliance with the accord.
Asked about ongoing tensions with Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia, Rouhani said that his government’s primary problem with the kingdom was its interventions in the region — particularly its campaign in Yemen — though he also said there could be room for dialogue to resolve issues.
Iranian pilgrims are again taking part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which Iran boycotted last year after hundreds were killed in a stampede near the Saudi city of Mecca in 2015.
“This trip of our Hajj pilgrims will be a good indicator for us to see how we can resolve our problems with Saudi Arabia,” Rouhani said.