Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned this week that Tehran may abandon the 2015 nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), within hours if the U.S. continues imposing new sanctions.
In a speech to parliament on Tuesday, Rouhani said Donald Trump was “not a good partner.”
“Those who try to return to the language of threats and sanctions are prisoners of their past delusions,” Rouhani also said in a televised address. “If they want to go back to that experience, definitely in a short time, not weeks or months, but in the scale of hours and days, we will return to our previous situation very much more stronger.”
Despite Iran’s reported compliance with the JCPOA, the U.S. legislature recently voted overwhelmingly in favor of slapping further sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Donald Trump is also looking to derail the nuclear deal, already alleging that Iran is noncompliant with the JCPOA despite the fact that he certified its compliance just last month.
As the New York Times explained, the U.S. is trying to force Iran out of the nuclear deal:
“That would be an outcome welcomed by the Trump administration. Top officials like Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Mattis have expressed concern about the effect on American relations with European allies if Mr. Trump were to unilaterally pull out, especially after he already announced his intention to back out of the Paris climate change accord that Europeans strongly support.”
“But some advisers to the president argue that if they can provoke Iran into being the one to scrap the nuclear deal, it will leave the United States in a stronger position.” [emphasis added]
It appears this is the provocative policy the Trump administration is currently pursuing. Analysts examining this current news story should necessarily pose the question: why derail the nuclear agreement if Iran is complying? And to what end?
Regardless, Rouhani said Iran would still prefer to stick with the nuclear deal, calling it “a model of victory for peace and diplomacy over war and unilateralism.” As an apparent realist, however, Rouhani warned there were other options.
Iran is already preparing for the collapse of the JCPOA. The country’s parliament recently voted overwhelmingly to increase spending on Tehran’s ballistic missile program and the powerful Revolutionary Guard in retaliation for the new sanctions the U.S. has slapped on the country. According to Al-Jazeera, some politicians even chanted “Death to America” as the vote results were announced.
“The Americans should know that this was our first action,” said speaker Ali Larijani after announcing the majority vote in favor of the package on Sunday.
The JCPOA does not account for Iran’s missile tests, and many media outlets agree that Iran is not violating the agreement by testing and developing its missile technology. To date, the country has only launched one missile into another country’s territory — unlike the United States, which is currently bombing at least seven countries and considering bombing at least three or four more. Earlier this year, Iran launched a missile strike in Syria in response to a terrorist attack on its own soil ( one should note that Iran’s military presence in Syria is authorized through Iran and Syria’s mutual defense arrangements).
The U.S. has been looking to invade Iran for decades, and Iran has no desire to turn into the next Iraq. Regime change has become an official policy of the Trump administration even though Iran is regarded as one of the only politically stable nations in the region.
Comparatively, there is no real show of aggression from Iran, and generally speaking, Iran’s military spending is still quite low. If it were ever to pursue a nuclear weapon, it would likely be a deterrent strategy in the same way North Korea’s program is. A 2017 Congressional Research Service report found there was a case to be made that Iran’s national security policy is concerned with protecting itself from America and its allies’ attempts to intimidate or changing the current Iranian government. Further, according to the U.S. Defense Department’s annual review of Iran:
“Iran’s military doctrine is defensive. It is designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike, retaliate against an aggressor, and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities while avoiding any concessions that challenge its core interests.”