The world’s view toward Iran has changed and previous international sanctions will not be reinstated against the Islamic Republic, President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday in defense of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the nuclear agreement Tehran signed with world powers two years ago. “The Americans may have certain ideas, but the sanctions, the way they existed before, will not return under any form,” he said in his first live TV speech since his inauguration on August 5. “International dynamics and the world’s opinion on Iran have totally changed. We have tackled a lot of daunting challenges and people feel safer economically,” he asserted.
The Iranian president also claimed that the U.S. domestic politics is going through a period of instability and Washington lacks a well-defined foreign policy, even vis-à-vis its allies. “This could benefit us in a way,” he pointed out.
He emphasized, unlike in the past, the momentum is with Iran and that the U.S. can no longer muster international support to act against the Islamic Republic. “At present, America is at the worst position, and quite the opposite, Iran is at the best position. Even regarding J.C.P.O.A., what are the positions of America’s European allies? The president of France explicitly said that there is no alternative to the J.C.P.O.A. agreement.”
He said signing the nuclear agreement was the right decision to end Iran’s isolation. “We are confident about continuing our path. If the other side commits a violation, we will respond… At a time when America imposes sanctions, foreign banks gives us $10 billion in credit. One company signs a $5 billion oil and gas contract with us.”
Comment: Rouhani’s remarks were intended to defend his first term’s record and to respond to criticism by hardliners who say the nuclear agreement has not benefited Iran.
While most nuclear-related international sanctions against Iran were lifted in January 2016, existing U.S. sanctions have discouraged many foreign banks and companies to do business with Iran. As a result, the Islamic Republic has not benefited from the nuclear agreement as it expected. Critics of the deal inside Iran also point to the new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and argue that the Rouhani team should not have trusted the United States.
But the counterargument by the Rouhani government, as indicated in the president’s speech tonight, is that the nuclear deal ended Iran’s isolation and helped improve Tehran’s relations with the rest of the world. Rouhani is also under increasing pressure by critics to strongly respond to the latest U.S. sanctions. The Iranian president has said that Tehran will not be the first to leave the nuclear accord, but will not remain committed to the deal at all costs.