Iran slams US nuclear deal exit, warns of Europe sabotage

Iranian women protesting against US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement, during a demonstration in Teheran on Friday.
Iranian women protesting against US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement, during a demonstration in Teheran on Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS/TASNIM NEWS AGENCY

Anger shown at rallies reinforces possibility that Teheran would quit accord too and restart nuclear fuel enrichment

TEHERAN • Iran's hardline authorities organised nationwide rallies to denounce the Trump administration's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear agreement, burning American flags and warning that Europe might further sabotage the accord.

The reaction reflected the view held by many hardliners that the United States' withdrawal had vindicated their suspicions that Westerners were treacherous.

The anger on display in Teheran and other cities last Friday also reinforced the possibility that Iran would now abandon the agreement as well, restarting the nuclear fuel enrichment it had halted.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a well-known hardliner who leads the Friday prayer services in Teheran, admonished fellow citizens against making any deals with foreigners "since they cannot be trusted".

In his sermon, broadcast on state television, Mr Khatami also criticised Iranian politicians who have looked towards Europe to preserve the nuclear deal, arguing the Europeans, too, have broken promises.

The outpouring of anger, in demonstrations organised around the country, was the most strident so far to President Donald Trump's announcement last Tuesday he was abandoning the nuclear agreement reached with Iran and other major powers three years ago.

A photo on the official Instagram site of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei showed him reading a Farsi translation of Michael Wolff's book on the Trump White House, The Fire And The Fury.
A photo on the official Instagram site of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei showed him reading a Farsi translation of Michael Wolff's book on the Trump White House, The Fire And The Fury. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The agreement relaxed or ended many economic restrictions on Iran in return for its verifiable pledges to never make nuclear weapons, including a freeze on nuclear fuel production for at least 15 years. Mr Trump called the agreement too weak and described it as a shameful giveaway to Iran by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Mr Trump's announcement restored onerous US sanctions on Iran, including penalties for foreign companies that do business with that country. His announcement was widely criticised around the world but drew praise from Iran's regional enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

While European governments have said they want to preserve the accord, the participation of the US was widely considered to be crucial to the survival of the agreement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due to leave yesterday for a diplomatic tour to salvage the nuclear deal. He will visit Beijing, Moscow and Brussels, a spokesman said, holding meetings with all of the remaining parties to the nuclear deal.

Even before Mr Trump announced the pullout, non-American businesses were wary about making any financial commitments in Iran, fearful of such an outcome.

Many Iranians, who had hoped the nuclear accord would bring a flood of investment and business to the country of 80 million, have been deeply disappointed.

Reminding Iranians of this point, Mr Khatami said Europeans had been expected to invest in Iran after the nuclear agreement took effect but most never did. He exhorted listeners to shout "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" In response to what Israel has described as its aerial assaults on Iranian bases in Syria, Mr Khatami also said Iran would "rob the Israeli regime of sleep" and threatened to "raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground".

READY TO FIGHT

I am an Iranian Kurd and I am ready to fight with America and Israel. I only wait for the command of the chief commander, our supreme leader Khamenei.

MR HASSAN KHEDRI, a worshipper.

The US withdrawal from the nuclear accord is considered a serious political blow to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, who had promised the agreement would end the country's prolonged isolation and economic travails.

The withdrawal also reinforced the anti-American hostility of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, who reluctantly had gone along with Mr Rouhani and his nuclear negotiators.

A photo on the official Instagram site of Mr Khamenei showed him reading a Farsi translation of Michael Wolff's scabrous account of the Trump White House, The Fire And The Fury, quickly picking up more than 100,000 likes.

The mood at Friday prayer services was defiant in Teheran, where American flags were burned.

One worshipper, Mr Hassan Khedri, 24, with spiky hair and a sleeveless shirt, said: "I am an Iranian Kurd and I am ready to fight with America and Israel. I only wait for the command of the chief commander, our supreme leader Khamenei."

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 13, 2018, with the headline 'Iran slams US nuclear deal exit, warns of Europe sabotage'. Print Edition | Subscribe