NEW YORK: The international nuclear agreement with Iran is a “closed issue” and cannot be extended or changed in any way, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared Wednesday, flatly rejecting President Trump’s criticism that the deal is weak and “an embarrassment.”
“This is a building the frame of which, if you take out a single brick, the entire building will collapse,” Rouhani said.
“This issue must be understood by the American officials,” he added. “Either the JCPOA will remain as it is in its entirety or it will cease to exist.”
The 2015 deal known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a signature achievement for President Barack Obama. The agreement, negotiated over more than two years of difficult diplomacy, also involves European allies, as well as Russia and China, and is backed by the United Nations. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held his first meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later Wednesday, alongside the other parties to the accord.
France, Germany and Britain have not signed on to the criticism lodged by the new U.S. administration, and French President Emmanuel Macron used his meeting here with Trump on Monday to urge the U.S. leader to stick with it. The agreement meant an infusion of cash and investment in Iran, much of it from European businesses liberated from international economic sanctions on Iran.
It has been an open question whether the agreement could survive without the United States, whose participation was the key to Iranian willingness to strike a bargain, limiting what it asserts is a peaceful nuclear program.
Rouhani’s remarks are a declaration that the deal cannot be renegotiated to address U.S. concerns and cannot be reconstituted without the United States.
Rouhani also suggested that if the United States abrogates the terms of the deal, Iran could resume larger-scale uranium-enrichment activities – a move likely to rekindle international fears that Tehran would be able to accelerate the development of nuclear weapons.
“If anyone exits the agreement and breaks their commitment, it means our hand is completely open to take any action that we see as beneficial to our country,” Rouhani said at a news conference after his address to the U.N. General Assembly.
“The JCPOA has no other conditions,” Rouhani said. “It is the JCPOA in its current form.”