Iranian president attacks Trump's threat to scrap Iran deal and calls him a 'rogue newcomer'

The US President had called Iran a 'rogue state' during his first address to the UN General Assembly 

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Wednesday 20 September 2017 17:55 BST
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sits before addressing the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sits before addressing the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters (AP)

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has labelled Donald Trump a “rogue newcomer” in international politics, attacking the US leader's “ignorant and absurd” rhetoric for suggesting the nuclear deal with Tehran could be ripped up.

During his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Rouhani said that if the US decides to scrap the deal negotiated by the Obama administration, the nation would only demolish its own credibility.

“It will be a great pity if this agreement were to be destroyed by rogue newcomers to the world of politics,” Mr Rouhani said. “By violating its international commitments, the new US administration only destroys its own credibility and undermines international confidence in negotiating with it or accepting its word or promise.”

Mr Trump had used part of his own speech to the assembly on Tuesday to condemn Iran as “a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy”, saying that the country’s oil profits go toward funding terrorist groups, Yemen’s civil war and Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilising activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear programme,” Mr Trump said. “The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

For his part, Mr Rouhani said Iran desired to preserve its accord with six world powers – including the US, UK and France – under which Tehran agreed to restrict its nuclear program for at least a decade in return for the loosening of economic sanctions that crippled its economy.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement,” Mr Rouhani said, adding that Iran would respond “decisively and resolutely” to a violation by any party.

After Mr Rouhani's speech, Mr Trump told reporters that he had decided about whether to rip up the agreement, but refused to say what that decision was.

Mr Trump’s criticism of the deal has put him at odds with other world leaders, including the UK's Prime Minister Theresa May, who has called the agreement “vital”, and France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Mr Macon on Tuesday said the nuclear deal was “essential for peace”.

Mr Trump on Wednesday told reporters he has decided on whether to scrap the deal, but would not disclose his decision.

The US’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, had earlier said that while the President’s rhetoric in his speech was not a “clear signal he plans to withdraw” from the accord, it demonstrated he’s “clearly not happy” with it.

“The United States is not safer because of it, I think if you look at, yes, on one side it deals with the nuclear development, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) which everyone talks about, but US law requires it to look at other things which Iran is in violation of,” Ms Haley said, pointing to claims of Iran smuggling arms and continuing to test ballistic missiles in the region.

Mr Rouhani said in the wake of his speech that he did not think Washington would leave the nuclear deal and said any country that abandoned the pact would isolate and embarrass itself.

“We don't think Trump will walk out of the deal despite (his) rhetoric and propaganda,” Mr Rouhani said.

“If American officials think that they can pressure Iran by walking out of the deal, they are making a big mistake,” he added. “Either the nuclear deal remains as it is or it will collapse.”

Over the weekend, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that while Iran was technically complying with its commitments in the agreement, it was also supporting terrorist organisations and backing militias in Yemen and Syria.

Mr Rouhani was not the only one to hit back at Mr Trump's rhetoric in his UN speech. The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards said the US should experience “painful responses” for Mr Trump's words.

“Taking a definitive stand against Trump is only the beginning of the path,” said General Mohammad Ali Jafari, according to Sepah News, the news site of the Revolutionary Guards.

“What is strategically important is that America witnesses more painful responses in the actions, behaviour and decisions that Iran takes in the coming months,” Mr Jafari said.

Over the summer, tensions between the Iran and US intensified in the Persian Gulf, with both sides accusing each other of provocative manoeuvres with military vessels.

Mr Trump also recently signed into law a new package of sanctions on the Middle Eastern country, which deputy foreign minister and senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araghchi has called a “hostile” breach of the Iran deal.

The new sanctions impose mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile programme and anyone who does business with them. The measure would also apply terrorism sanctions to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and enforce an arms embargo.

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