Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged Europe to defy US sanctions if US President Donald Trump’s administration abandons Tehran’s nuclear agreement with the world powers.
In an interview with The Guardian and the Financial Times conducted in New York and published on Friday, Zarif stressed that Tehran will only abide by the restrictions under the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), if the other signatories – the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – all remain committed to the deal and defy any subsequent US sanctions.
“Europe should lead,” Zarif said
“There are other options and those options will depend on how the rest of the international community deals with the United States,” he added.
“If Europe and Japan and Russia and China decided to go along with the United States, then I think that will be the end of the deal,” Zarif pointed out.
The Iranian foreign minister warned that if the agreement collapsed, Iran would come up with more advanced nuclear technology than the pre-agreement era.
However, the top Iranian diplomat insisted that the technology would not be used to make weapons, in line with Tehran’s obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“The deal allowed Iran to continue its research and development. So we have improved our technological base.
“If we decide to walk away from the deal, we would be walking away with better technology. It will always be peaceful, because membership of the NPT is not dependent on this deal. But we will not observe the limitations that were agreed on as part of the bargain in this deal,” he said.
Zarif said he expected Trump to carry out his threat and not certify Iranian compliance in a State Department report to Congress on October 15, leaving it to US lawmakers to decide in 60 days whether to re-impose anti-Iran sanctions suspended under the JCPOA.
“I think he has made a policy of being unpredictable, and now he is turning that into being unreliable as well,” Zarif said.
“My assumption and guess is that he will not certify and then will allow Congress to take the decision,” he added.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said after a ministerial meeting on the JCPOA at the UN last week that all the signatories, including the US, have agreed that Iran complies with its obligations under the deal, noting that Europe would do everything in its power to preserve the agreement even if the US withdraws.
Observers say Europe’s challenge goes far beyond defying US bans as it has to ignore possible resumption of UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran as well.
According to “snap-back” provisions under the nuclear deal, the US can trigger the resumption of UN sanctions by itself, as the provisions authorize each of the signatories to the deal to call a Security Council vote on whether to continue the existing sanctions relief – a vote the US can veto.
Trump’s administration has desperately sought a pretext to scrap or weaken the 2015 deal and get rid of the limits it imposes on the US ability to pursue more hostile policies against Iran.
The US stance on the JCPOA comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repeatedly verified Iran’s adherence to the terms of the nuclear agreement since January 2016, when it took effect.
All other parties to the deal, along with the entire international community, have thrown their weight behind the accord and verified Iran’s full commitment to its side of the bargain.