Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran Gives Ultimatum, Threatens to Abandon Nuclear Deal (with AUDIO INTERVIEW)

Tehran gives Europe until Friday to provide financial relief from US sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday issued a stern warning to European powers, saying Tehran would “in the coming days” further scale back its commitments to the 2015 nuclear agreement unless a mechanism was devised to provide the Islamic Republic with financial relief.

Rouhani added that it was “unlikely that we will reach a result with Europe by [Friday],” setting the stage for a potential major diplomatic standoff.

In July, Iran said it had increased its enrichment level for uranium to beyond the maximum set by the deal. It later announced it had exceeded the cap on the size of its stockpile.

Mehdi Mahmoudi, an Iranian journalist based in Tehran, is likewise doubtful that the matter will be resolved this week.

“Iran’s strategy at this time is reducing its commitments under the nuclear deal. Indeed, this tactic is successful because the European Union is now trying to do more and more work to appease Iran,” Mahmoudi told The Media Line.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has seemingly accepted the arduous task of mediating between Washington and Tehran. Earlier this week, he proposed to salvage the nuclear deal by providing the Islamic Republic with a $15 billion line of credit, a sum nearly equal to half of Iran’s annual oil sales.

In this respect, Iranian crude exports have plummeted by over 80 percent since US President Donald Trump in May of last year withdrew from the nuclear pact and re-imposed crippling sanctions.

“Iran… will return to full implementation of the [nuclear accord] only if it is able to sell its oil and to fully benefit from the income,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi recently asserted.

But Iranian officials seem divided on the French proposal, with conflicting messages emanating from Tehran.

All of this comes on the backdrop of heightened tensions in the Gulf, where the White House has accused Iran of perpetrating numerous attacks on tankers transiting vital waterways. In fact, the arch-foes were on the cusp of a confrontation in June when Iranian forces downed a US drone and President Trump ordered retaliatory strikes before cancelling them at the last minute.

On Tuesday, Rouhani said his government would not agree to bilateral negotiations with the United States until all sanctions were lifted.

“Rouhani’s comments are in line with Iran’s posture since the US pulled out of the [nuclear accord], put sanctions on Iran and withdrew certain waivers that allowed certain nuclear activity to continue,” Elana DeLozier, a research fellow at The Washington Institute, told The Media Line.

“The Iranians are using their nuclear commitments in [part] as leverage to try to get the Europeans to give them economic concessions.… Their threats to further reduce their commitments are meant to pressure the Europeans – and perhaps the Americans as well,” she said.

The Media Line spoke further about the matter with Dr. Sanam Vakil, a senior research fellow at the London-based Chatham House think-tank, where she heads the Iran Forum.

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