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Iran’s leader lambasts Trump over US exit from nuclear deal

WT24 Desk

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has lambasted Donald Trump over his decision to unilaterally pull the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal, saying that his statement was “ludicrous and shallow”, as hardliners rejoiced at the US exit, The Guardian reports.

“I say it on behalf of Iranian people, Mr Trump, you can’t do a damn thing,” said Khamenei, who wields ultimate power in Iran, a day after the US president broke with European allies over what he said was a “horrible, one-sided” agreement.

The Ayatollah said Trump’s statement on the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, also known as the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), contained “more than 10 lies”. He said: “He both threatened the system as well as the nation… The body of this man, Trump, will turn to ashes and become the food of the worms and ants, while the Islamic Republic continues to stand.”

ardliners in Iran have been given a new lease of political life with Trump’s decision to torpedo the agreement and reimpose economic sanctions at the highest level, seizing on an opportunity to consolidate their power over reformists who championed the pact.

On Wednesday the commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards congratulated the nation on the US exit. Mohammad Ali Jafari said: “I congratulate and see as a good deed the vicious withdrawal of the US from JCPOA, which was not credible even before the withdrawal … It was proved once more that US isn’t trustworthy in regards its commitments.”

At the opening session of the Iranian parliament, a group of hardline MPs held up a paper US flag and the text of the JCPOA before setting fire to both and chanting “death to America”.

The MPs’ protest was a nod to Khamenei, who had said in June 2016, prior to Trump’s election, that if the Americans “tear it up, we will set it on fire”.

Khamenei said on Wednesday it was not feasible for Iran to continue implementing the agreement without making sure that the European partners in the agreement, the UK, France and Germany, could withstand US pressure. The EU wants to keep the agreement but a US exit might trigger a collapse of the deal because US sanctions will hamper European business with Tehran.

“It is not logical to continue the implementation of the Iran deal without receiving enough guarantees from three European countries,” Khamenei said. “Now it is said that we continue [the deal] with the three countries. I even don’t trust these three countries. Receive practical guarantees from them. If you can, that’s fine. But if you cannot receive a guarantee, it will not be possible to continue implementing Barjam,” he said, referring to the Persian acronym for the JCPOA.

Ali Larijani, the speaker of the parliament, said Tehran would wait to gauge how the European partners in the nuclear talks would handle the US exit from the deal. His comments echoed those of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who has said the agreement could survive if Europe defies Trump.

The US exit from the agreement dominated Wednesday’s newspaper front pages in Tehran. “Barjam minus America,” read the main headline on the front page of the reformist Ebtekar daily. “US exit from Barjam puts an end to the the world’s trust in the empire of lies,” Ettela’at’s front page said.

“Trump tore up the agreement, now it’s time for us to set it on fire,” read the front page headline of Kayhan, an ultra-conservative daily whose editor is appointed directly by Khamenei.

Despite Rouhani’s assurances that Iran is prepared to withstand the impact of a US exit, Trump’s decision has revived worries of conflict inside Iran, where people are concerned about the state of its already fragile economy, and consequences for the fate of reformists.

On Tuesday night ordinary Iranians were on tenterhooks, monitoring any immediate impact on the country’s national currency, and prompting panic-buying of hard-to-find dollars amid political uncertainty. The rial traded at the all-time low on Wednesday. One US dollar was exchanged for 75,000 rials.

Sadegh Zibakalam, a prominent political commentator and professor of politics at Tehran University, struck a pessimistic tone about the consequences of Trump’s decision.

“Many people are worried about war,” he told the Guardian by phone from Tehran. “Whenever the country faces a crisis in its foreign policy or economy, the situation gets better for hardliners, they’d be able to exert their force more easily.”

He added: “At the same time, hardliners will gain politically from this situation, because they’ll attack reformists and moderates like [President] Rouhani that this is evidence of what they had been saying for years, that the US cannot be trusted, and that the US is always prepared to knife you in the back.”

Foad Izadi, a Tehran-based conservative political analyst, said Trump’s aim was to confront Iran with greater force but that it could withstand the pressure. “For 40 years, we have been living under sanctions. The collapse of the nuclear deal will mean that we have to find ways to circumvent sanctions, something we have done in the past,” he said.

For ordinary Iranians, however, the prospects are gloomy. One, Arash Tavanafar, said the psychological pressure of Trump’s decision on the Iranian population could prove more powerful than its economic effect. “The psychological pressure and worry is destroying us, especially the youth, because we neither have any trust in this political system, nor any hope for its reform. We’ve only become spectators of its downfall,” he said.

Mohammad, a postdoctoral student, said Trump’s decision would undermine moderates in Iran as the country might have to name a new supreme leader in the coming years. Khamenei is 78, and there has been speculation over his health. “Moderates can play a significant role in the appointment of the new leader if they’re not weakened, something that can hugely affect the future generations in the country,” Mohammad said.

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