A year after Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 agreement, Iran takes ‘reciprocal measures’
Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor -The Guardian
Iran will announce its partial withdrawal from the nuclear deal signed with world powers, a year after Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement signed in 2015, Tehran has announced.
Wednesday’s “reciprocal measures” will be formally conveyed to ambassadors to countries remaining inside the deal – France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia. Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will separately set out the technical and legal details in a letter to the EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.
Iran insists the announcements will not amount to a complete withdrawal from the agreement, and may include a two-month deadline for the EU to implement its obligations before further Iranian steps are taken.
The move is bound to be seized upon by Washington as proof that the nuclear deal – which the US violated in May 2018 – has collapsed and is no longer worth pursuing.
EU officials were privately informed of the extent of Iran’s response at a meeting on Tuesday.
France was the first EU country to react, warning that Europe will have no choice but to impose economic sanctions against Iran if it steps back from the deal. “We do not want Tehran to announce tomorrow actions that would violate the nuclear agreement, because in this case we Europeans would be obliged to reimpose sanctions as per the terms of the agreement,” the source said. “We don’t want that and we hope that the Iranians will not make this decision.”
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has been under intense domestic political pressure to produce some kind of countermeasure following the US withdrawal.
Tehran has lost patience with Europe’s efforts to create a new viable financial mechanism that would allow European firms to continue trading items such as medicines and humanitarian goods with Iran and circumvent US secondary sanctions.
The Trump administration has repeatedly warned European multinationals they will face swingeing US Treasury fines if they trade with Iran and try to operate in the US market. Almost all large European firms have withdrawn from the Iranian market, depressing the economy still further.
Under its policy of “maximum pressure”, Washington has extended sweeping sanctions on Tehran and in recent weeks has hit even harder, moving to ban all countries from buying Iran’s oil, its top export, and declaring the Revolutionary Guards to be a terrorist group – the first such designation of a unit of a foreign government.
UN inspectors still say that Iran has remained in compliance with the nuclear deal, which is still backed by European powers as well as Democrats seeking to unseat Trump next year.
Iran will claim its announcement, likely to be relayed through a live TV address by Rouhani, falls within sections 26 and 36 of the JCPOA, the deal signed in 2015, which allows Iran to take steps if one party withdraws from the agreement.
Zarif was quoted by state media on Wednesday as saying that Iran would reduce some “voluntary” commitments within its nuclear deal but would not withdraw from it.
“Iran’s future actions will be fully within the [nuclear deal] from which the Islamic Republic will not withdraw,” Zarif said, according to state media. “The European Union and others … did not have the power to resist US pressure, therefore Iran … will not carry out some voluntary commitments.”
But US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is bound to seize on Tehran’s move as a lever with which to prise Europe away from its support for the deal, which was seen as a high-water mark of European diplomacy.
European diplomats are left to manage an often contradictory Washington foreign policy, but broadly fear that the US national security adviser John Bolton is pursuing a strategy of regime change in Iran that will only backfire, ushering in a more hardline stance.
Iranian state-run news agencies explained: “The partial and total reduction of some of Iran’s commitments and the commencement of some of the nuclear activities that had been stopped in the framework of the plan was Iran’s first step in responding to the withdrawal from the USA as well as the failure of European countries to fulfil their obligations.
“Officials in our country say the road to diplomacy is open, and Iran’s step-by-step steps are a new opportunity to diplomacy and correcting the wrong path of unilateralism.”