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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued a threat towards European forces in the Middle East Wednesday, after Britain, France and Germany challenged Tehran for breaching the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Today, the American soldier is in danger, tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” Rouhani told a televised Cabinet meeting, a day after the three European nations announced they were triggering the “dispute resolution mechanism” outlined in the landmark deal.
Britain and France maintain bases in the Persian Gulf, and European forces routinely serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rouhani didn’t expand on his threat, but it comes just a week after Iran struck American bases in Iraq with ballistic missiles, in retaliation for the U.S.’s drone strike killing of the powerful Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The Europeans said Tuesday they had “been left with no choice” but to challenge Iran’s non-compliance with the accord, after Tehran announced earlier this month it was abandoning all limits on the production of enriched uranium, which can be used to build a nuclear weapon. If Europe’s concerns over Iran’s actions aren’t addressed during a 15-day negotiation period, which the parties can agree to extend, then Iran could see the return of harsh international sanctions.
Under the 2015 deal, which was struck to prevent Iran developing a nuclear bomb, Tehran accepted restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. But since the U.S. pulled out in 2018, reimposing its own sanctions, Iran has gradually renounced various restrictions imposed on under the deal, saying that while it wants to keep the deal it place, it can’t abide by it while the reimposed U.S. sanctions deprive it of economic benefits.
Until Tuesday, the European countries had overlooked Iran’s backtracking on the deal, as they attempted to hold the agreement together in the wake of the U.S. departure. But Iran’s announcement, that it was abandoning all limits on enrichment, forced Europe’s hand.
Rouhani, whose government has been hoping for a European workaround to allow it to circumvent the damaging U.S. sanctions, slammed the European move as “baseless” — and dismissed out of hand a call from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for a renegotiated nuclear accord with U.S. buy-in.
“Let’s replace it and let’s replace it with the Trump deal,” Johnson, a strong supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, told the BBC Tuesday. Trump said he also backed a new deal.
But Rouhani described Johnson’s proposal as “strange,” and warned Europe not to jeopardize the 2015 deal.
“This Mr. Prime Minister in London, I don’t know how he thinks,” he said. “If you take the wrong step, it will be to your detriment. Pick the right path. The right path is to return to the nuclear deal.”
Cover: In this photo released by the official website of the Office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Presidency via AP)