Hardline Iran military chief to Trump: ‘We pray God’ you’ll cancel nuke deal

Gen. Hossein Salami says Iran ‘will make better progress’ without accord, but Tehran’s foreign minister urges Europe not to follow suit if US president scraps it

Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the new head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (YouTube screen capture)
Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, the new head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (YouTube screen capture)

The deputy head of Iran’s hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said Iran is praying that Donald Trump will cancel the 2015 nuclear deal because, he said, Iran would “make better progress” without it.

“If you intend to abort the deal, you’d better know that we pray God for this, because we would make better progress without the JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action),” said General Hossein Salami, in remarks quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency. “The nuclear deal might be your only option, but it is no option for us at all,” he said.

US President Trump has threatened to scrap and/or amend the agreement, in part because of Iran’s ongoing ballistic missile development program, saying that the missile program could give Iran the technical know-how for a delivery system for a nuclear warhead when a sunset clause in the deal expires in 2025.

Trump is due to report to Congress on October 15 on whether he believes Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal. If he decides that it is not, it could open the way for renewed US sanctions and perhaps the collapse of the agreement. He said last week he had made his decision, but was not yet ready to reveal it.

The new Iranian long range missile Khoramshahr is displayed during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, on September 22,2017 in Tehran. (AFP PHOTO / str)

Iran last week unveiled a missile that it said could reach Israel and carry multiple warheads. It later claimed to have tested the missile, the Khoramshahr, but US and Israeli officials said video of the purported test was from an earlier missile test.

In his speech in Isfahan province, Salami scoffed that Iranians “have not built our life on the basis of interaction with the US, as the life of the Iranian nation is independent from the JCPOA.”

US President Donald Trump speaks before signing a memorandum on increasing access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education in the Oval Office of the White House on September 25, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Meanwhile, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said he expected Trump would determine that Iran is not in compliance with the deal, and urged Europe not to follow Washington’s lead. Zarif told British reporters that the only way Iran would continue to honor the accord if the US stepped away would be if the P5+1 powers — the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany – reiterated their commitment to it and defied any new US sanctions. “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.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran (AP/Richard Drew)

If the deal did collapse, Zarif told the Guardian, Iran would emerge with more advanced nuclear technology than before it was signed, and would restart uranium enrichment and other elements of its nuclear program.

“The deal allowed Iran to continue its research and development. So we have improved our technological base,” Zarif said. “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.”

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