Iran’s conservative press Tuesday mocked the EU’s position on a 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Washington, accusing Germany’s foreign minister of exhibiting both impotence and high-handedness during talks in Tehran, with one newspaper publishing a cartoon depicting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wearing blue Star of David glasses and performing a Nazi salute.
Since US President Donald Trump quit the agreement in May last year, the European Union has repeatedly renewed its own commitment and pledged to reward Iran’s compliance with the sanctions relief promised under the deal.
But its failure to find an effective mechanism to enable its firms to continue doing business following the reimposition of US sanctions has left Tehran increasingly frustrated.
And strong criticism by the EU last month of Iran’s decision to retaliate by declaring itself no longer bound by some of its commitments has sparked further anger. For the first time since the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the UN’s nuclear watchdog on Monday did not explicitly report that Iran was implementing its nuclear-related commitments and said that its rate of uranium enrichment was increasing.
The ultra-conservative Javan newspaper ran a front-page cartoon depicting Maas wearing blue Star of David glasses, a necktie depicting the American flag, a swastika armband, sporting a toothbrush mustache and performing a Nazi salute.
Though Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif made a point to shake Maas’s hands in front of the cameras, his comments marked a sharp departure for the US-educated diplomat who helped secure the nuclear deal. They came after Maas spoke in support of Israel.
“The stinking leftovers of Nazism and fascism have manifested themselves in the spirit of the weakest Europe in history,” Javan said in an accompanying editorial.
The European Union “sent its envoy to Iran to say ‘Europe cannot implement without America’s approval but cannot accept Iran’s refusal to deliver on some of its commitments,'” the paper complained.
Leading ultraconservative daily Kayhan recalled the involvement of German firms in providing materials used by Saddam Hussein’s regime to develop weapons of mass destruction it deployed in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
“Germany, as one of the main suppliers of weapons of mass destruction to Saddam … should have apologized to Iran and reconsidered its policy instead of expressing concern over Iran’s defensive capabilities,” it said.
Since 2015, Iran has continued developing and testing ballistic missiles, which it says are for defensive purposes only and completely within the term of the nuclear deal.
But the EU has echoed US criticism of the tests and has called for restraint from Tehran.
The conservative Resalat newspaper mocked Europe’s repeated promises to rescue the nuclear agreement, saying “the powerless cannot perform miracles.”
During his visit on Monday, Maas acknowledged that the economic benefits Tehran hoped for from the nuclear deal were now “more difficult to obtain” but urged Iran to fully respect the agreement.
It is in Iran’s “political and strategic interest to maintain this agreement and the dialogue with Europe”, he said.
Zarif warned that Tehran will not remain passive in response to what it says are threats from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to destroy Iran. Zarif also offered a series of threats over the ongoing tensions gripping the Persian Gulf. The crisis, he said, stems from Trump’s decision to withdraw America from the nuclear deal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back, saying that Zarif was not telling the truth and that in fact Tehran is the one threatening destruction.
“Zarif is once again lying,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Iran is the one openly threatening destruction. The regime’s officials threaten the destruction of Israel on a daily basis.”
The Iranian regime routinely threatens and anticipates the destruction of Israel, and funds and arms anti-Israel terrorist groups in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, frequently refers to Israel as a cancer that must be eradicated, and has set out detailed plans for its elimination.
Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran is seeking a nuclear arsenal in order to destroy it, and Netanyahu has led international opposition to the 2015 P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran.
AP contributed to this report.