US risks isolation over threat to withdraw from nuclear agreement


UPDATE 1015 GMT: President Hassan Rouhani has said on State TV, “The American administration has failed to undermine the nuclear deal….Trump, despite his repeated efforts, has failed to undermine the accord….The deal is a long-lasting victory for Iran.”

Rouhani claimed “a victory for international commitments and law against dictatorship”: “We proved that a tight knot could be undone at the negotiating table… that Iran is speaking the truth while the enemies are telling lies, and that we are not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.”

Iran has won backing from a series of key countries for the July 2015 nuclear deal, rebuffing an ultimatum by Donald Trump to alter the agreement or face US withdrawal.

On Friday Trump extended a waiver of sweeping Congressional sanctions, but he said it was the “last one” and demanded that the deal be renegotiated within 120 days.

See Iran Daily, Jan 13: Trump Extends Sanctions Waivers for “Last Time”

Russia and China, two of the 5+1 Powers (US, France, UK, Germany, Russia, China) who reached the accord with Tehran, each made firm statements on Saturday.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Moscow was “alarmed” by the latest US steps and expressed the Russian belief that “the US has already made its internal decision” to withdraw: “This could be one of Washington’s major foreign political mistakes, one of the major miscalculations of America’s policy.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking to Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif by phone, said implementation of the deal had not been “derailed” but faces “some new complicating factors”.

French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed Paris’s support on Saturday. Responding to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pressure for renegotiation, Macron said by phone that France “remembers the importance of preserving the Iran nuclear deal and the necessary respect by all parties of their engagements regarding the accord”.

Netanyahu had told Macron that all countries should “strongly condemn the five crimes of the Iranian regime”: “efforts to obtain nuclear weapons… developing ballistic missiles… supporting terror… regional aggression” and “the cruel repression of Iranian citizens”.

Iran’s Zarif has spent the week lobbying for reaffirmation of the deal. He was in Moscow in Wednesday and then met top officials of the European Union, UK, France, and Germany in Brussels on Thursday.

The EU and the three European signatories of the deal all emphasized their support for the deal, with implied calls for the Trump Administration to respect the accord.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini wrote on her personal site on Saturday, “The deal is working, the International Atomic Energy Agency has certified it nine times already, and it is crucial for the security of Europe and the world.”

However, the EU and France have expressed their desire for a separate negotiation over Iran’s ballistic missile program, a call which has so far been resisted by Tehran.

See Iran Daily, Jan. 12: Zarif Takes The Nuclear Case to Europe

Burial of Detainee Who Died in Custody During Protests

Saro Ghahremani, 24, has finally been buried after his death in detention during nationwide protests at the end of December.

Iranian authorities finally handed over the body amid suspicions over the circumstances of the death. Qahremani was held in Sanandaj prison in Iranian Kurdistan.

The funeral was held on Saturday “under strong security measures”, with only Qahremani’s parents allowed to attend.

Up to five detainees perished during the two weeks of the demonstrations. Iranian authorities claimed suicides in the cases, but Qahremani’s mother says there were signs that her son was beaten.

Authorities Unblock Telegram, Open Up Other Services

Iranian authorities have unblocked the messaging application Telegram, which had been restricted because of the regime’s concern over nationwide protests.

State news agency IRNA said, “An informed source announced that the filtering of the Telegram messenger has been ended and it is being used by users.”

Restrictions on Instagram were removed last week with the ebbing of demonstrations across the country over political and economic issues.

In a sign that the Rouhani Government may be pursuing a policy of opening up communications, other services are also available in the Islamic Republic.

President Hassan Rouhani campaigned both in 2013 and in 2017 on a platform of greater political and cultural freedom, but had been hindered by other regime factions from easing restrictions on the Internet and mobile applications.