Rouhani: We will not negotiate our defensive weapons with anyone”
UPDATE 0945 GMT: President Hassan Rouhani has said in a televised speech, “If the United States leaves the nuclear agreement, you will soon see that they will regret it like never before in history.”
Rouhani told a crowd in Sabzevar in northeast Iran:
From months ago, the necessary instructions have been issued to the Atomic Energy Organisation and economic sectors; we are ready for any decision about the JCPOA [nuclear deal].
We tell the world explicitly that we will not negotiate our defensive weapons with anyone. It’s none of anybody’s business what decisions we have made for defending ourselves.
Iran has appealed for support from the international community over any new US sanctions, which would distance Washington from the July 2015 deal over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Donald Trump must decide by May 12 whether to extend waivers of sweeping Congressional sanctions. He is widely expected to refuse, threatening Iran’s fragile economy with the toughest restrictions since negotiations leading to the agreement started in 2013.
The Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said on Saturday that the situation is a “historic test to evaluate the effectiveness of the logic of dialogue instead of conflict”.
Shamkhani spoke to “international bodies” as he asserted:
If the current US President does not accept the previous administration’s agreement and commitments, no other country will ever be willing to negotiate or reach an agreement with the US because it is likely that the next administrations will also refuse the current administration’s promises.
The admiral also struck a defiant pose over any prospect of a military conflict:
As the official in charge of the country’s national security body, I am explicitly and confidently announcing that the possibility of a war is ruled out because of enemies’ assessment of the Islamic Republic’s political strength [and] its military and security preparedness in domestic and foreign aspects, as well as their lack of determination, coherence and operational capability.
UK Prime Minister Speaks with Trump
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is the latest European leader to appeal to Trump to continue the sanctions waiver and to allow renegotiation of the existing agreement between Iran and the 5+1 Powers (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China).
The White House issued a brief statement about the Saturday phone call, with no reference to next weekend’s decision. Instead, it said Trump “underscored his commitment to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon”.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Washington two weeks ago to make the case for a revised deal, with extended time limits, and negotiations for a separate agreement over Iran’s ballistic missiles program. Both left the US with little sign that they had moved Trump towards that position.
The UK said Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will arrive in Washington on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Johnson did not mention the nuclear deal in a statement. Instead, he tried to set out a firm line on wider issues: “The UK, the United States, and European partners are united in our effort to tackle the kind of Iranian behavior that makes the Middle East region less secure — its cyber activities, its support for groups like Hezbollah, and its dangerous missile program, which is arming Houthi militias in Yemen.”
Opposition Leader Rahnavard Freed from House Arrest After 7+ Years
Iranian authorities have lifted the strict house arrest of opposition leader Zahra Rahnavard after more than seven years.
The Supreme National Security Council lifted the arrest order on Sunday. However, they maintained the detentions of Rahnavard’s husband Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both Green Movement leaders and candidates in the disputed 2009 Presidential election “won” by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The three, along with Karroubi’s wife Fatemeh, were restricted to their apartments in February 2011, amid regime fears of a renewal of mass protests after the 2009 election. Fatemeh Karroubi was released later in the year.
The SNSC said that Rahnavard, despite the lifting of her arrest, is choosing to stay with her husband Mousavi for now.