Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday vowed that US sanctions would not force his country to negotiate new terms for the moribund 2015 nuclear deal and declared that Washington’s pressure campaign was doomed to fail.
“We will never go to the negotiation table in a position of weakness,” Rouhani said at a press conference in Tehran, according to a report by Iran’s Mehr news agency.
He reiterated that the US should rejoin the nuclear deal — which it left in 2018 — if it wants to return to negotiations.
“We will finally get the enemy to sit at the negotiating table some day, like before,” said Rouhani, referring to the US.
He said he didn’t believe the US would pursue war with his country, because it would harm US President Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection bid.
Trump knows that war with Iran will “ruin” his chances of winning the 2020 US presidential election, he assessed.
The Iranian leader added that war would be harmful to US interests and those of its regional allies, as well as Iran.
“I think the Americans aren’t after war since they know what harm it could do them,” said Rouhani in a news conference.
He said that Persian Gulf nations like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar stood a lot to lose if conflict between Iran and the US turns to war.
Iran would always play a key role in the region’s stability, Rouhani declared.
“It is clear to the entire world that peace and stability in this region are impossible without a powerful and great country like Iran,” he said.
Tehran and Washington came close to an open conflict in January, when a US drone strike killed Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, outside Baghdad. Iran retaliated with missile strikes on a base housing US troops in Iraq.
In May 2018 Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, then reinstated severe economic sanctions under a “maximum pressure” campaign to force Iran to renegotiate the pact.
The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action saw previous international sanctions lifted from Iran in return for it agreeing to curb its nuclear program to limit it from being able to produce weapons.
The Trump administration claims the JCPOA doesn’t go far enough in stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and also did not address the country’s ballistic missile program. Strict sanctions have targeted Iran’s vital oil industry, ravaging its economy.
As the other signatories to the deal struggle to keep the pact alive, Iran has also dropped some of its commitments to the deal, restarting processes that experts say shorten the breakout time it needs to produce enough enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb.
Iran has said it is only prepared to open talks on the deal if the US first removes its sanctions.
At his Sunday press conference, Rouhani conceded that “sanctions will naturally create problems for the people,” but predicted “these sanctions will be fruitless for our enemies.”
Washington knows that “the path and strategy they chose was based on a miscalculation and will not affect the great Iranian nation,” he said and claimed that for the first time in its history Iran was managing without its oil industry to keep the economy going.
Last month three European signatories to the JCPOA — Britain, France and Germany — announced action under the nuclear agreement paving the way for possible sanctions in response to Tehran’s attempts to roll back parts of the deal.
The three countries, which signed the international agreement along with the United States, Russia and China, triggered its “dispute mechanism,” ratcheting up pressure on the Islamic Republic.