Iran nuclear deal: Trump rebuke could 'push Tehran towards nukes'

In an interview with DW, Ali Vaez, an expert at the International Crisis Group, slammed President Trump's approach toward the Iran nuclear deal and said that US policy could push Tehran to enhance its nuclear capability.

Global powers involved in the Iran nuclear deal agreed Wednesday that the landmark accord was effective and that it should not be scrapped, said the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.

"All parties are fulfilling the agreement," Mogherini told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, amid speculation that the US could be prepared to withdraw.

Although she could not guarantee that the US would remain part of the deal, Mogherini stressed that the EU was committed to preserving it.

Read more: Donald Trump and the Iran nuclear deal – a crisis in the making

Mogherini's comments came on the back of a meeting of top diplomats for the countries that negotiated and signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran in 2015 — China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the US.

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DW News | 19.09.2017

Trump slams Iran at United Nations

The deal saw Iran agree to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for easing of sanctions and economic embargos.

In his speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump called the Iran nuclear accord "an embarrassment" to the US.

Read more: What are Donald Trump's objections to the Iran nuclear deal?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected any renegotiation of the 2015 nuclear deal and said Tehran had "various" options" if President Trump decides to pull the United States out of the agreement.

"This agreement is not something you can touch. If you take out a single brick, the entire building will collapse," Rouhani told reporters after a speech to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday. "An American government that chooses to trample on her legal and legitimate international commitments, a conversation with such a government would be a waste of time."

Germany's leaders also made clear their opposition to any scrapping of the deal.

In an interview with DW, Ali Vaez, a senior Iran analyst at the Washington-based International Crisis Group (ICG), said killing the nuclear accord would force Tehran "to double down on its missile program and support for regional partners and proxies."

Ali Vaez: 'The only solution is to preserve the nuclear deal and build on it'

DW: The future of the Iran nuclear deal looks bleak. US President Trump threatened once again to pull out of the agreement with Tehran. Why does Trump so vehemently oppose the accord?

Ali Vaez: The Trump administration has no good reason to scuttle the Iran deal. If the US wants to strengthen the deal, it should supplement it with additional agreements that could serve the interests of both Washington and Tehran.

As French President Emmanuel Macron said, the fact that this deal was negotiated by Trump's predecessor [President Barack Obama] is not a good enough reason to scrap it.

Killing the deal is not going to moderate Iran's behavior in the Middle Eastern region. In fact, it will push Iran to double down on its missile program and support for regional partners and proxies.

It seems that Trump is not interested in diplomatic rapprochement with Iran as opposed to the Iranian government. Are you aware of any back door diplomatic efforts between the two countries to smooth out their differences?

Negotiations might only help if the Trump administration is seeking a better arrangement. Otherwise, no Iranian government will ever make additional concession to the US in return for nothing.

What is your impression of President Rouhani's General Assembly speech?

Rouhani had to deal with the situation cautiously in his speech. He had to appear moderate enough not to scare western investors and at the same time harsh enough not to be accused by his domestic critics of weakness in the face of Trump's confrontational policies. By that standard, his speech was a success.

Read more: Opinion: Iran's risky nuclear deal threat

What do you suggest to defuse the escalation between the US and Iran?

A stronger pact could not be built on the ruins of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The only solution is to preserve the deal and try to build on it.

Ali Vaez is a senior Iran analyst at the Washington-based International Crisis Group (ICG).

The interview was conducted by Shabnam von Hein.

Iran's Rouhani sworn in for second presidential term

Rouhani pledges 'path of coexistence'

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was sworn in for a second, four-year term in an open parliament session. He called for greater freedom of expression and free access to information in Iran as well as better ties to the rest of the world.

Iran's Rouhani sworn in for second presidential term

Strong European showing

The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini attended the inauguration along with several other foreign guests, including French and German officials. In a meeting prior to his inauguration, Rouhani said the presence of senior European diplomats showed Europe's determination to expand ties with Iran, despite pressure from the US.

Iran's Rouhani sworn in for second presidential term

Historic ceremony

The parliament chamber was lined with the flags of the inauguration's guests. With more than 100 foreign delegations, including top diplomats from Europe, it was the largest showing of international guests at a presidential inauguration since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran's Rouhani sworn in for second presidential term

Iran's reformer in chief

Prior to assuming office, Rouhani was a religious scholar, lawyer and cleric. The 68-year-old was first elected president in 2013, and is seen as a moderate reformist. During the campaign, Rouhani promised to continue building diplomatic ties abroad and to increase gender and ethnic equality at home. Analysts say the president may struggle to make an impact within Iran's power structure.

Iran's Rouhani sworn in for second presidential term

Supreme leader approval

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L), formally endorsed Rouhani (R) for his second term in office at a ceremony on Thursday. As the supreme leader has the final say on all state matters, it's unclear how far Rouhani will be able to push his domestic and foreign policies.

Iran's Rouhani sworn in for second presidential term

Concerns over all-male cabinet

Rouhani is due to present his government lineup to parliament soon, which is expected to be all male. Supporters and reformist allies of the re-elected leader heavily criticized the lack of female ministers, as much of Rouhani's popularity has been built on promises for greater civil liberties, including more rights for women.

Iran's Rouhani sworn in for second presidential term

Future of nuclear deal at stake

During Rouhani's first term, Iran emerged from isolation in 2015 when the country struck a deal with six world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. The landmark deal is now under threat from US President Donald Trump, who has taken an aggressive Iran policy since entering office. Trump also recently signed a new package of sanctions against Iran.

Iran's Rouhani sworn in for second presidential term

Bumpy road to economy boost

Rouhani also faces the difficult task of delivering on promises to improve Iran's economy. Unemployment in the country is high and rose from 24 to 30 percent during Rouhani's first term. Although the nuclear deal helped stabilize Iran's currency, foreign investment in the country has been sluggish.