Photographs by AP/Iranian Presidency Office
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks Wednesday during a Cabinet meeting in Tehran. Rouhani said if the U.S. backs out of the nuclear deal, “it won’t be our failure at all, but a failure for the other side.”
Originally published October 12, 2017 at 03:44a.m., updated October 12, 2017 at 03:44a.m.
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran on Wednesday warned of a tough response if President Donald Trump presses ahead with his threats to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told lawmakers during a closed session of the parliament that Iran "will never renegotiate" the deal brokered with the U.S. and five other world powers, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.
The nuclear agreement required Iran to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Zarif as saying Iran will offer a "tougher response" if the U.S. breaks the agreement.
Trump is expected to decline this week to certify Iran's compliance and refer the matter to Congress. He also is expected to target Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard with new sanctions. On Tuesday, the State Department offered $12 million for information leading to the location, arrest or conviction of two senior leaders of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group.
Trump, who has called the nuclear agreement the "worst deal ever," said Wednesday that he will "very shortly" announce his decision on U.S. participation in the 2015 pact. Because of unilateral conditions set by Congress, he has until Sunday to determine whether Iran remains in compliance with the accord.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting that Trump's speech will make clear "which is the rebellious government, and which is the side that violates international rules."
If the U.S. backs out of the nuclear deal, "it won't be our failure at all, but a failure for the other side," Rouhani said, according to state TV. He added that any effort to target the Revolutionary Guard would be a "double mistake."
British Prime Minister Theresa May meanwhile urged the United States to extend the nuclear deal, saying it is "vitally important for regional security."
May's office said she and Trump spoke late Tuesday and both sides agreed their teams would remain in contact ahead of Trump's decision on the pact.
The British government said Wednesday that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had called Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to underscore British support for the deal.
Johnson said the agreement "was the culmination of 13 years of painstaking diplomacy and has increased security, both in the region and in the U.K. It is these security implications that we continue to encourage the U.S. to consider."
China, France, Russia, Germany, Britain and the European Union all ratified the deal.
The Trump administration has faced two 90-day certification deadlines to state whether Iran is meeting the conditions needed to continue enjoying sanctions relief under the deal and has both times backed away from a showdown. But Trump more recently has said he does not expect to certify Iran's compliance with the October deadline looming.
Israel's nationalist government is expected to be the loudest -- and perhaps only -- major player to applaud if Trump moves to scuttle the Iran deal.
Israel considers Iran to be its greatest foe, citing its decades of hostile rhetoric, support for anti-Israel militant groups -- like Hezbollah -- and its development of long-range missiles. Israeli decision-makers see a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.
As the deal was being finalized, Netanyahu frantically tried to block it, claiming it did not go far enough. Among his concerns: clauses that will lift the restrictions on Iran next decade, quick relief from sanctions, an imperfect system of inspections and the failure to address Iran's other behaviors such as missile tests and involvement in regional conflicts.
In early 2015, Netanyahu delivered a speech to the U.S. Congress railing against the emerging deal, setting off a crisis in relations with then-President Barack Obama that never healed.
In an opinion column published in The New York Times last week, Michael Oren, Netanyahu's former ambassador to Washington and now a deputy minister for diplomacy, argued that decertification would not be the disaster that critics have predicted.
He said that if the deal is ultimately canceled, it should be replaced by "crippling sanctions." If retained, he said, it should be improved to include stricter inspections of suspect nuclear sites, harsh penalties for violations, and the elimination of the "sunset clause" that will gradually end the deal.
"Either way, revisiting the agreement will send an unequivocal message to the world," Oren said. "It will say that the United States is truly unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran -- not now, not in a decade, not ever."
Information for this article was contributed by Danica Kirka, Jill Lawless, Matthew Lee, Julie Pace, Josef Federman and Ian Deitch of The Associated Press.
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