(May 11, 2018 / Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: “I swear by Allah that the Europeans will follow the path of the Americans. Trump’s body will become fodder for snakes and worms, while the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to stand strong.”
- President Hassan Rouhani: “We came to the conclusion several months ago that Trump is not faithful to the international obligations to the JCPOA, and we have already taken the necessary economic measures.”
- Head of the Parliament Ali Larijani: Iran’s nuclear activities “will restore the sanity of the United States. … The language of force is more effective against such a person [Trump] in order to get him to recognize the ramifications of his conceited behavior.”
- IRGC Commander Mohammad Jafari: “The fate of the agreement has been decided because Europe can’t act independently. It is dependent upon America.”
The Iranian regime has issued confused reactions to U.S. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal. The characteristics of the Iranian responses indicate deep differences of opinion within the Iranian government over future action and the reasonable possibility that the country will again be subjected to harsh sanctions. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei explained that this American move was a demonstration of U.S. hostility toward Iran, which has gone on over many years, and it is unconnected to the JCPOA nuclear deal.
The President of Iran Hassan Rouhani and Ali Larijani, chairman of the Majlis [Iranian Parliament], emphasized that they would hold talks in several weeks with the European countries (Germany, France and the United Kingdom), China and Russia to assess whether the agreement can be maintained. If this is not possible, they threatened that Iran would restart its nuclear program.
The leaders of the Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian army stressed that they are ready for any type of conflict with the United States. They explained that the U.S. move only proves that it is not possible to rely on the United States.
Iranian president threatens unlimited industrial enrichment
Iranian President Rouhani, who has been managing all the contacts for some time on the nuclear deal with Iran (with great skill), gave a speech shortly after Trump’s dramatic announcement.
Rouhani stressed, “Iran is a country that stands by its obligations, including implementing the nuclear deal, while the United States never stood by its obligations and displayed ongoing hostility toward the Iranian people.” He added, “The unlawful Zionist regime, which is responsible for the assassination of our nuclear scientists, is the only [country] that has expressed support for President Trump’s position.”
Rouhani stated that under present circumstances, Iran would wait and see how the other partners in the agreement would react to the U.S. president’s announcement.
“From now on, the agreement is between Iran and five other countries,” he said. Rouhani added that he instructed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to hold consultations over the coming weeks with the European countries, Russia, and China in an attempt to coordinate positions with them. He stated, “If within this short period of time, we reach a conclusion that we can achieve all of our demands and the demands of the Iranian people with these five members, the JCPOA agreement will continue, in spite of the positions of Israel and the United States, and the U.S. president’s disrespectful speech. … If we see that our interests are not maintained, I will give an additional address to the nation in which I will detail our decisions in these circumstances.”
President Rouhani’s message to the Iranian people
Rouhani sought to calm the Iranian people and said they did not need to worry about Iran’s future.
We already came to the conclusion several months ago that Trump is not faithful to the binding, international obligations to the JCPOA, and we have already taken the necessary economic measures. We are now standing before a JCPOA without the United States, and the Iranian people will show that economic growth will continue, and market stability will be maintained. We will continue to provide the necessary foreign currency for the country, in every circumstance.
[Last year, the official exchange rate for the Iranian rial was 64.4 rials to the dollar. Today, the Iranian government pegged the official rate as 42,000 rials per dollar, but the rial plunged after the Trump announcement. Unofficially, dollars are now selling at a rate of 80,000 rials per dollar, and the Iranian government is arresting dealers on the black market.]
The governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Valiollah Seif, stated in this regard that Iran had taken all of the required measures to ensure continued economic growth.
Referring to the nuclear program, Rouhani stated that he had informed the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran “to be prepared for future measures so that if needed, we can begin our industrial-scale enrichment without any restrictions.” At the same time, the Iranian president stressed, “We will wait a few weeks before the resolution is implemented, and we will discuss it with our friends, allies, and signatories of the agreement and continue to be obligated to it. We will continue to honor the agreement as long as it serves the interests of the Iranian people…. If the agreement becomes a piece of paper that does not benefit the interests of the Iranian people, we will have a clear road ahead of us [i.e., enrichment on an industrial scale].”
Regarding Trump’s appeal to the Iranian nation, as opposed to the regime, Rouhani responded in kind. He said, “Tonight, I’m sorry for one reason … that the American people, which is a great nation, is stuck with rulers that harm their honor. … On the other hand, I am happy that a nuisance has left the JCPOA.”
Iranian Supreme leader refers to ‘historic’ U.S. hostility towards Iran
Iranian leader Ali Khamenei stated that he has always claimed that there has been U.S. enmity toward Iran for many years and it is not connected with the nuclear issue, which is only a pretext for the United States to provoke Iran.
We have tried to prove that this is not the case, but apparently we made a mistake. … We accepted the [nuclear] deal, but this did not end hostility toward Iran…. Now, they are talking about our presence in the region and the issue of missiles. But even if we accept this (and compromise), they will find other excuses.2
Khamenei declared that he was not surprised by Trump’s speech and “his shameful behavior.” He described him as “foolish, artificial, and full of at least ten lies, threatening not just Iran but also the Iranian people.” He addressed the U.S. president directly, saying, “You are damn wrong, Mr. Trump.”
He also accused previous U.S. administrations, including that of Obama, of repeated attempts to bring down the Iranian regime, even though they always tried to conceal this intention. According to him, all American presidents have treated Iran badly in one way or another during their tenure, and now they have “passed from this world, and even their bones are no longer here.” Yet the Islamic Republic of Iran has survived. “Even this man [Trump] will pass from the world, and his body will become fodder for snakes and worms, while the Islamic Republic of Iran will continue to stand strong.”
Khamenei criticized several Iranian politicians who advised him not to be stubborn about the nuclear issue. He said, “Several famous politicians said to me, ‘Why do you continue to be so stubborn about the nuclear issue? Put it to one side so that the Americans will stop their hostility and nastiness toward Iran.’ I answered them, ‘If we back down, the Americans will find another excuse. … Now you can see that I was right, and what I expected did indeed happen.’”
He added that he always advised the members of the Iranian government in public and private meetings not to rely on the United States. They needed to ask for guarantees before signing any agreement with it. “One of the conditions that I made was that the U.S. president himself should sign the agreement. … Those involved in the craft of diplomacy worked very hard and invested much effort, but they failed [to get such a signature] … Iran was obligated to the agreement for two-and-a-half years and now ‘this nothing’ [Trump] has said that he is against the agreement.”
About Iran’s conditions for continued adherence to the deal, the Iranian leader said that he did not trust Germany, France, and the United Kingdom: “Don’t trust them.” If you want to sign on a real agreement, ask for proper guarantees. “I swear by Allah that they will follow the path of the Americans. If it is in your power [referring to the Iranian negotiators] to get guarantees, then no problem. I believe that it will be unreasonable. If you can’t ask for definite guarantees, the JCPOA won’t be able to continue [in its present form].”
Khamenei added that Iranian diplomats are now facing a “big task … if they can maintain the dignity of our nation or not. … The honor and interests of the nation must be maintained and respected in the fullest sense of the word.”
The Iranian leader said that several days ago, Iran intercepted a letter that the U.S. administration had sent to several Gulf States. It said, “I have wasted $7 billion on you, and now you have to act according to my instructions.” Khamenei said: “You [Trump] have wasted money on gaining absolute control in Iraq and Syria, but you have failed, and you are damned.”3
Majlis chairman: Iran will renew its nuclear activities
The chairman of the Majlis, Ali Larijani, stated that Iran’s nuclear activities “will restore the sanity of the United States.” He described the U.S. move as “foolish” and said that the U.S. president was not rational enough to solve problems:
The language of force is more effective against such a person in order to get him to recognize the ramifications of his conceited behavior…. If Europe [the countries that signed the agreement], Russia, and China can fill the void left following the United States’ departure from the agreement, it will be possible to continue following it [and fulfill the agreement]. If not, Iran will bring them back to reality through its nuclear activities. They will have to realize that in these circumstances, Iran will not have any obligation to previous agreements on the nuclear issue.
Larijani is a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, a member of the Supreme Leader’s Supreme National Security Council, and chief nuclear negotiator (2005-2007). Last week, he repeated the earlier remarks of the president, according to which Iran will open a window of several weeks to see if there was still a possibility of adhering to the agreement. Larijani reckoned that the chances of Europe remaining bound to the agreement were slight, but Iran as a “responsible country” would allow the analysis of this subject to prove that Iran had exhausted every possible option for a peaceful resolution.
The chairman of the Majlis added that the Iranian Parliament’s National Security Council would monitor the activities of the foreign ministry and its contacts with the European countries very closely so that the ministry could report to the Majlis, and the latter could make a final decision. Larijani also stated that Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) needs to get ready to adopt a series of steps based on the “Law of Reciprocity” once the results of contacts between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the European countries are known.4
During a session of the Majlis, several Iranian members of Parliament burned the American flag, while others accompanied the burning of the flag with calls of “Death to the United States!”
Senior officials in the Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian army criticized the U.S. president’s announcements and promised that Iran could deal with any threat it is faced with.
Commander of IRG: Fate of agreement is decided
The commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Jafari, stated: “The fate of the agreement has been decided because Europe can’t act independently. It is dependent upon America, and it can’t choose between the United States and Iran.” He added, “I welcome American’s thuggish withdrawal from the agreement. I actually see this as a positive step, because this way it can’t have a significant effect on Iran’s national interests. It’s clear that it’s not possible to rely on the Americans, and it proves once again that the United States does not stick to its obligations.”5
Army Chief of General Staff: ‘We can only rely on ourselves’
Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said: “The Iranian people always loved the nuclear deal. … It was not something we benefited from. … We adopted it because we are a noble nation, and also to put an end to speculation over our nuclear program.” He added that the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement proved that Iran could only rely on itself.6
Internal Security Forces Commander: ‘Sanctions will strengthen us’
Hossein Ashtari, commander of the Internal Security Forces, said: “America’s departure from the agreement will only bring blessing. After all, even the praiseworthy Ayatollah of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, said at the beginning of the Revolution that American sanctions against Iran will only strengthen Iran from within.”7
Other sources in Iran have minimized the expected effects of the sanctions forecast against Iran, saying that the United States and its active allies will be the main losers of the annulment of the agreement. In this context, the CEO of the Pars Oil and Gas Company said that Iran had prepared in advance for the possibility of the giant oil corporation Total annulling its agreement with Iran to develop Phase 11 of the South Pars gas field—a project that is very important for Iran’s economy.
DF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Alcyon Risk Advisors.
Institute for Contemporary Affairs at JCPA Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation.