‘Who are you?’ Iran hits back at US demands

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said the world will “not accept” USunilateralism just hours after Washington laid out a series of tough demands to be included in a potential new nuclear treaty with Iran.

In remarks carried by Iran’s ILNA news agency on Monday, Rouhani said the era of the US making decisions for the rest of the world was “over”.

“Countries are independent … We will continue our path with the support of our nation,” Rouhani said.

“Who are you to decide for Iran and the world?”

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump’s defied efforts by European allies and announced Washington’s  withdrawal  from a landmark multinational pact signed with Iran in 2015 and a decision to impose tough sanctions on Tehran.

In announcing the new US strategy towards Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday warned Washington “will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime” unless it complied with a list of 12 conditions, which must be met before any new deal can be reached.

The demands include giving the International Atomic Energy Agency a full account of the country’s former nuclear military programme, withdrawing its forces from Syria and ending what Pompeo described as Iran’s “threatening behaviour” towards its neighbours.

Also responding to Pompeo, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif accused the US of a “regression to old habits”, saying Washington’s diplomatic efforts were a “sham”.

“It repeats the same wrong choices and will thus reap the same ill rewards. Iran, meanwhile, is working with partners for post-US JCPOA solutions,” Zarif said in a tweet on Monday.

Political analyst Jamal Abdi said the US knew that Iran could never agree with such demands.

“[It’s a] smokescreen of ‘We want to handle this diplomatically’, but I think this is all about paving a path towards confronting Iran militarily – whether that’s through covert action or an overt escalation in the region.”

Pompeo’s comments were welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said the demands amounted to “the only policy that could ultimately guarantee the security of the Middle East”.

“We call on the entire international community to join this American position,” Netanyahu said on Monday.

Anwar Gargash, the United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, also said Washington was taking the correct stance on Iran.

“Uniting [our] efforts is the correct path for Iran to realize the futility of its incursions and expansionism … The Pompeo strategy requires wisdom and a change of the Iranian compass,” Gargash said in a tweet on Monday.

EU diplomacy

Under the 2015 deal with six world powers – China, France, Russia, the UK, the US and Germany, as well as the European Union – Iran scaled back its enrichment of uranium and vowed not to pursue nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly confirmed that Tehran has been meeting its nuclear commitments enshrined in the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), fully.

The spat comes after several European companies expressed concern about continuing business with Iran following the US exit, raising further doubts about the viability of the deal.

Danish shipping giant Maersk Tankers, German insurer Allianz and Italian steel manufacturer Danieli have all announced plans to halt, or wind down altogether, operations in the country.

French energy giant Total has also warned it will pull out of a multibillion-dollar project to develop Iran’s vast South Pars gas field unless granted a waiver by US authorities.

Despite recent efforts from EU leaders to safeguard the 2015 deal, Zarif hasaccused the bloc of not doing enough to preserve its future, saying it “needs to take more practical strides and increase its investments in Iran if it is to continue its economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic [Iran]”.

‘Jumbo negotiation’

Reacting to Pompeo’s comments, Boris Johnson – foreign secretary of Britain, which is party to the 2015 nuclear deal – said the “jumbo negotiation” sought by Washington would be extremely difficult to achieve within a “reasonable timetable”.

“I think in the end, we will get back to the kind of additions to the JCPOA that we initially envisaged – but it may take a long time,” Johnson said on Monday ahead of a G20 foreign ministers summit in Argentina, at which discussions about the nuclear deal are expected to take place.

Britain has vowed to honour the 2015 agreement, which Johnson said had “protected the world from an Iranian nuclear bomb, and in return [given] the Iranians some recognisable economic benefits”.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told reporters later on Monday there is “no alternative” to the deal.

On Thursday, the European Commission said it would launch the process of activating a law that bans European companies and courts from complying with US sanctions against Iran.

Jean Claude Juncker, the commission’s president, said it has a “duty to protect European companies” from Washington’s punitive fiscal measures.

The options being considered by the bloc to keep Tehran in the nuclear deal reportedly include new credit lines, increased energy cooperation and implementing EU laws to block European firms from caving in to US sanctions.

EU trade with Iran has increased dramatically since the sanctions on its economy were lifted as part of the 2015 deal.

Last year, trade between the bloc and Iran totalled over 20bn euro ($23.5bn), with most exports being machinery and transport goods and the majority of imports being energy-related products.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

News Reporter

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