TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday he’d send his foreign minister to negotiate with countries remaining in the nuclear deal after Donald Trump’s decision to pull America from the deal, warning he otherwise would restart enriching uranium “in the next weeks.”
Rouhani’s speech, carried live by state television, marked a doubling-down for the cleric who has seen his signature foreign policy achievement threatened by Trump for years.
However, he stressed that the deal could survive without the U.S.
“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.
Iranian state television did not broadcast Trump’s speech live, but carried his remarks in the crawl at the bottom of the screen and later recounted some of them.
Earlier on Tuesday, Rouhani stressed Iran wants to keep “working with the world and constructive engagement with the world.” That appeared to be a nod to Europe, which has struck a series of business deals with Iran since the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran likely hopes the European Union will pass laws to protect European firms from any potential U.S. sanctions.
Trump and the United States also came under fire from Iran’s first vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, a popular reformist politician who has been suggested as a possible presidential contender in Iran’s 2021 election.
“Today, the biggest power in the world is yelling that it does not accept it (the deal),” Jahangiri said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. “It’s up to them what to do with the deal, but (from now on) naive individuals would accept to enter talks with such a country.”
“We are ready and have a plan for managing the country under any circumstance,” he added.
Jahangiri’s comments suggest a coming political turn against any rapprochement with the West if Trump pulls out of the deal, especially as he is a reformist — a politician who advocates for change to Iran’s theocratic government. It also comes as Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this year, where negotiations will undoubtedly include talks about the Asian country’s atomic weapons program.
Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal imposed restrictions on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of most of the U.S. and international sanctions against Tehran.
However, the deal came with time limits and did not address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its regional policies. Trump has repeatedly pointed at that, while referring to the accord as the “worst deal ever.” However, proponents of the deal have said those time limits were to encourage more discussion with Iran in the future that could grow into addressing those other concerns.
Many in Tehran and elsewhere in the country are worried about what Trump’s decision could mean for the country.
Already, the Iranian rial is trading on the black market at 66,000 to the dollar, despite the government-set rate being at 42,000 to $1. Many say they have not seen the benefits of the nuclear deal.
Iran’s poor economy and unemployment already sparked nationwide protests in December and January that saw at least 25 people killed and, reportedly, nearly 5,000 arrested.