TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday his country “will continue to stick to” the nuclear deal, calling it “much stronger” than U.S. President Donald Trump thinks.
Rouhani spoke on state television after Trump angrily accused Iran of violating the spirit of the 2015 accord and demanded Congress toughen the law governing U.S. participation. Trump said he was not ready to pull out of the deal but warned he would do so if it were not improved.
“Tonight’s remarks (by Trump) showed that the deal is much stronger than what he thought during the U.S. presidential campaigns,” Rouhani said.
“The U.S. is more lonely than ever about the deal,” he added.
Rouhani used his about 20-minute address to talk about tensions in Iranian-U.S. relations dating back to the 1953 CIA-engineered coup that overthrew its elected prime minister and put the shah firmly in control. He said the country would continue to build and test ballistic missiles, something allowed under the nuclear deal though Americans believe it violates the accord’s spirit.
“We have always been determined and today we are more determined,” Rouhani said. “We will double our efforts from now on.”
The faith of the average Iranian has eroded over time in the nuclear deal, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. It was sealed in July 2015 after 18 months of negotiations by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., Britain, China, France and Russia — as well as Germany.
The leaders of top U.S. allies Britain, France and Germany also underlined that they “stand committed” to the deal and expressed worries about the possible implications of Trump’s announcement.
In a joint statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron urged the Trump administration and Congress to consider the possible consequences for the West’s security “before taking any steps that might undermine” the deal, including imposing sanctions on Iran that the agreement lifted.
In Moscow, a close ally of Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, spoke ahead of Trump’s address, warning that any move to spike the deal “would undoubtedly hurt the atmosphere of predictability, security, stability and non-proliferation in the entire world.”
Saudi Arabia, however, immediately praised Trump’s tough words about the kingdom’s regional rival. While Saudi Arabia says it supports the nuclear deal in place, it has accused Iran of exploiting the economic benefits of sanctions being lifted “to continue destabilizing the region, especially through its ballistic missile development program and its support for terrorism in the region.” Saudi Arabia and Iran back warring factions in Syria and Yemen, and opposing groups in Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq.
In September 2015, a telephone survey by the Toronto-based opinion research firm IranPoll for the University of Maryland found 45 percent of 1,000 Iranians said they were not confident the U.S. would live up to its obligations in the nuclear deal. By September 2017, an IranPoll telephone survey of 700 urban Iranians found 77 percent were not confident. The margins of error for the polls were 3.1 percentage points and 3.7 percentage points respectively.
On the streets of Tehran on Friday, people were skeptical of the U.S. Most have yet to see the benefits of the deal.
“The U.S. plans to wage a war against Iran and Trump is taking steps toward it,” said Hassan Dehghani, a 65-year-old mechanical engineer. “It will bad for both sides.”
Faranak Roozbahani, a 49-year-old homemaker and mother of two, said the two countries need to sit and negotiate.
“Instead of making speeches, they should do something for people of the both countries to feel relief,” she said.
Tehran-based political analyst Saeed Leilaz said Iran will not accept the U.S.’s pressure as it has not done so since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“Iran will not withdraw an inch since there is no guarantee that U.S. will stop demanding more concessions,” he said. “Besides, there is a prudent government in the country that enjoys popular support and good relations with world. The situation is not similar to pre-deal era, anymore.”
Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.