Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday slammed US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the nuclear deal as an act of “psychological warfare,” warning that his country could start enriching uranium more than ever in the coming weeks.
State television said the decision was “illegal, illegitimate, and undermines international agreements,” Reuters reported.
Speaking live on state television, Rouhani said he wished to discuss Trump’s decision with the European, Russian, and Chinese parties to the 2015 deal. There’s a “short time” to negotiate, he said, adding that he will be sending Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to countries remaining in the accord.
“I have ordered Iran’s atomic organization that whenever it is needed, we will start enriching uranium more than before,” he said, adding that Iran would start this “in the next weeks.”
The Iranian president appeared on the state broadcaster just minutes after Trump announced the historic decision to withdraw the United States from the agreement.
Rouhani has stated in recent days that he hopes to salvage the deal as much as possible with the help of the other parties — Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the European Union — who have strongly opposed Washington’s decision to pull out.
However, he stressed that the deal could survive without the US.
“If at the end of this short period, we’ve conclude that we are able to achieve our demands in the deal, the deal will survive,” Rouhani said.
Trump announced the US was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, following through on a campaign promise and defying European allies who implored him to maintain an agreement that international agencies have said Tehran is honoring.
In a highly anticipated address from the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room, Trump cast the landmark agreement forged under predecessor Barack Obama as ‘defective’ and unable to rein in Iranian behavior or halt the Islamic Republic’s quest to develop a nuclear program.
“I’m announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” he said while adding that his administration “will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction.”
Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France, and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.”
Trump emphasized that sanctions would also apply to other nations that did business with Iran, meaning that the United States could very well apply sanctions on its closest European allies. “America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail,” Trump said.
However, officials said European companies would have several months to pull out of the Iranian market.
Responding to the move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has lobbied against the deal, said he offered his full support for Trump’s “bold move.”
European signatories vowed to stick by the agreement.
In January, Trump waived sanctions for the third time in his presidency, but said he wouldn’t take that action again unless Congress and European allies amended the pact.
Since then, international negotiators have unsuccessfully sought to make changes to the deal — and Tehran has refused to accept any alterations to its terms.
The Iran agreement, struck in 2015 by the United States, other world powers and Iran, lifted most US and international sanctions against the country. In return, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program making it impossible to produce a bomb, along with rigorous inspections.
Over the last several weeks, leaders from France, Britain, and Germany have all lobbied the president not to abscond from the accord, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned assiduously to discredit the deal.
If the deal collapses, Iran would be free to resume prohibited enrichment activities, while businesses and banks doing business with Iran would have to scramble to extricate themselves or run afoul of the US American officials were dusting off plans for how to sell a pullout to the public and explain its complex financial ramifications.
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.