Iran’s top diplomat warned President Donald Trump to not pull out of the 2015 nuclear agreement, saying the United States would suffer extremely negative consequences if it did so.
“If the decision comes from President Trump to officially withdraw from the deal, then Iran will take decisions that have been provided for under the [agreement] ... as the United States has a habit of saying, ‘all options are on the table,’” The country’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said in an interviews on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.
The Iran nuclear deal was President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement and is therefore, not surprisingly, reviled by Trump. During the presidential campaign, he called it “the highest level of incompetence.”
Trump, so far, has not pulled out of the deal, but he has given himself a May 12 deadline to either waive sanctions against Iran, as outlined in the deal, or to leave it. Five other countries ― the U.K., Russia, France, China and Germany ― are also parties to the agreement.
Zarif said the United States would suffer a serious blow to its international standing if it doesn’t hold up its end of the bargain because it would show that the country can’t be trusted.
“It will lead to U.S. isolation in the international community,” Zarif said. “The reason that President Trump has not withdrawn from the deal over the past 15 months, in spite of the fact that he did not like the deal, has been the fact that everybody has advised the administration that this is not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States, and withdrawing from it would be seen by the international community as an indication that the United States is not a reliable partner.”
“It would not be pleasant for the United States ― the reaction of the international community, and as I said Iran has many options and those options are not pleasant,” he added.”
Providing relief for Iran from crippling economic sanctions is central to the deal. In return, Iran promised to halt its nuclear program. But Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said that even if Trump refuses to waive the sanctions for Iran next month, that somehow doesn’t necessarily mean the deal will collapse.
Another option, as Trump sees it, is to renegotiate the terms of the deal. The administration may try to get its European allies to at least commit to changing the deal over the time, in return for the United States sticking with it.
Britain, France and Germany are looking at imposing new European sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missiles program and its role in the Syrian conflict in an attempt to keep Trump from pulling out.
On Sunday, Zarif said that any such side agreement between the other nations would be unacceptable to Iran.
“What is important is for the Europeans to bring the United States into compliance because Iran has been in compliance with the deal,” he said. “It’s been the United States that has failed to comply ... President Trump has made it very clear that it is trying to dissuade our economic partners from engaging with Iran and that’s a clear violation of the deal.”
Trump recently nominated Mike Pompeo, who was serving as his CIA director, to be his new secretary of state. Pompeo is expected to be more in line with Trump on Iran than was his predecessor, Rex Tillerson. He recently said he wanted to “fix” the nuclear agreement.
International experts, as well as U.S. national security officials, have said Iran is complying with the deal ― even though it continues to pursue other policies that the U.S. administration believes pose a threat.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, said he expects that Trump will pull out of the deal, unless something changes.
“I do think if nothing changes with the three European members we’re dealing with right now on a framework,” Corker said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, “I do think he will move away from the agreement on May 12.”