Iran isn’t making Europe’s efforts to save the ailing nuclear accord any easier. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei set out tough demands Wednesday in order for Tehran to stay in the deal — expressing doubt the Europeans would comply or that they would go against the wishes of the U.S.
Returning serve to the White House list of demands issued Monday, which it said Iran would have to meet to strike a new deal, Khamenei outlined his own strict conditions for remaining in the 2015 pact, warning that Iran would resume its nuclear activity if they were not met.
“If the Europeans linger over our demands, Iran has the right to resume its nuclear activities,” he said. “When we see that the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the 2015 deal is known] was useless, one way forward is to restart those halted activities.”
He added that he did not want to start a fight with the European signatories, “but we don’t trust them either,” because they always fell in line with the United States.
“Of course, Europe will not stand in the United States’ way. Let’s be realistic,” he said.
Khamenei’s conditions included that Europe could not object to Iran’s missile tests, or its wider behavior in the region. The Trump administration has criticized the 2015 deal for failing to tackle either of these issues, and demanded that Iran withdraw from Syria and cut off support to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia if it wants a new deal to avoid U.S. sanctions.
Khamenei also demanded that European banks safeguard trade with Tehran, and that European countries guarantee Iran’s oil sales, making up the shortfall in sales lost due to Washington’s withdrawal from the deal.
The 2015 accord, designed to stop Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon, has been thrown into jeopardy since the White House’s May 9 announcement that it was pulling out of the deal and reintroducing sanctions on Iran. The remaining signatories to the deal — France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and China — have said they're standing by the agreement, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reiterating their position at a joint briefing in Beijing Thursday, just hours after Khamenei’s comments.
But Europe has acknowledged that it faces a battle to keep the deal alive. Last week the European Union announced it is reviving a sanctions blocking law intended to shield European companies who trade with Iran from the threat of U.S. sanctions, but there are doubts over how effective this will be, and a number of corporations are already winding up their Iran operations.
Khamenei said Wednesday that Iran could no longer have any interaction with the U.S., and said the hardline demands laid out by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Monday were a pretext for overthrowing Iran’s leaders.
“You can compare the Islamic Republic now to 40 years ago, and see that it is moving forward with various capabilities,” he said. “So, all their plots have failed … just like the famous cat from the Tom and Jerry cartoon.”
Cover image: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei speaks during his meeting with students in Tehran, Iran on October 18, 2017. (Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)