“The nuclear deal is the nuclear deal,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in response to comments by both US President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron at the White House a day earlier in which Macron suggested that changes could be made to (or alongside) a multi-lateral nuclear agreement in order to save it from sabotage by the Trump administration.
In a televised speech in Iran on Wednesday, Rouhani said that he spoke with Macron at length — presumably before Tuesday’s events in Washington, DC — and told the French president “explicitly that we will not add anything to the deal or remove anything from it, even one sentence.”
Not sparing Trump direct rebuke, Rouhani blasted the US president as unqualified for his position, declaring: “You have no clue about politics, no clue about the law or international treaties. You are just a businessman, a tradesman. You are a tower builder. How is he going to pass judgment on international issues?”
Rouhani warned that Trump and Macron cannot simply re-write a deal that was agreed to by seven parties. “Who allowed you to do that?” the Iranian president asked. “For what? With what right?”
He continued by saying that by agreeing to the the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) — and by upholding all their commitments to it — Iran had “shown goodwill to the world.” And still, Rouhani reaffirmed — as Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javar Zarif has also said plainly to US news outlets in recent days — that with or without the deal his country will “not seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”
Rouhani said that as long Iran’s interests are “guaranteed we will remain in the deal, whether the US remains or not.” But, he added, that “if our benefits are not guaranteed, we will not remain in the deal, no matter what the circumstances are.”
Macron’s new proposal included elements suggesting that further actions could be taken to curb Iran’s military power and regional influence, though it remained unclear exactly what they would mean. Macron’s offer, the Guardian reported, “seemed calculated to appease the [Trump’s] discontent with the current agreement, the [JCPOA] by proposing a broader initiative to tackle other elements of Iran’s challenge in the region, particularly its ballistic missile program, and its military role in Syria.”
Meanwhile, critics of Trump’s threat to torpedo the international agreement continue to voice warnings that doing so puts the US and Iran on a direct path to war.
“Donald Trump is setting up a dangerous catch-22 with Iran,” warned Trita Parsi, president of the National American-Iranian Council, in a statement on Tuesday. “Trump is threatening war if Iran restarts nuclear activities on one hand while he unravels the very agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran on the other. This is more than a war of words, Donald Trump is setting us up for a very real military conflict.”
Macron and Europe seem “willing to bend over backwards to save the nuclear deal and prevent catastrophe,” added Parsi. “When our closest allies express alarm in unison, we should listen. Trump should quit while he is ahead and reaffirm the US commitment to the JCPOA before it is too late. The alternative would be an isolated America, an unchecked Iranian nuclear program, and an escalation towards war.”