Iran threatens to withdraw from nuclear weapons treaty

Tehran warns US of possible repercussions should Donald Trump tear up 2015 nuclear deal

Iran has threatened to withdraw from the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the clearest indication of how it will react should Donald Trump pull the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council, said Tehran could leave the NPT nearly half a century after it signed if it decided the treaty no longer served its interests.

Speaking on Tuesday, the senior official said Iran was mulling “surprising actions” if the nuclear deal were scrapped, and made it clear that leaving the NPT, which is designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, was an option. “The NPT acknowledges the right for all its member states to leave the treaty if their interests are endangered,” he said in comments carried by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

As the 12 May deadline nears for Trump to either sign a presidential waiver on sanctions against Iran or withdraw from the nuclear accord, Tehran has made it known that it will not stand idly by if the latter decision is taken.

Trump has been emboldened by his recent appointment of Iran hawks such as the national security adviser, John Bolton. He refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement last year, but has so far stopped short of cancelling US participation in the deal, which promised to loosen sanctions in exchange for curbs to Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The US president’s decision was in contrast with repeated confirmations by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Tehran has been complying with the agreement. Iran has repeatedly said it would take no time to restart its nuclear programme if the deal is ripped up.

Trump, who was meeting the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said on Tuesday: “It won’t be so easy for them to restart it. They’re not going to be restarting anything. If they restart it, they’re going to have big problems, bigger than they ever had before. And you can mark it down. If they restart their nuclear programme, they will have bigger problems than they ever had before.”

The US president reluctantly waived a range of sanctions against Iran in January, as required by the US Congress every 120 days, but said this was “a last chance” and asked European countries to “join with the United States in fixing significant flaws in the deal”.

Trump has vowed not to waive the sanctions again unless European nations manage to make radical changes to the nuclear deal, including curbs on Iran’s missile development. This programme is not covered by the deal, and Tehran says it will not bow to pressure to halt it.

Macron said ahead of his visit that the agreement was not perfect, but there was no better option. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, told Israeli television at the weekend that “we believe it’s better to have this agreement, even if it is not perfect, than to have no agreement”.

Israel, a vocal critic of Iran’s nuclear programme, did not sign the NPT and is estimated to possess a few hundred nuclear warheads, an issue Tehran cites as an example of western hypocrisy.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, who was re-elected last year in a landslide victory thanks to popular support for securing the nuclear deal, said his government would react firmly and the US would face severe consequences.

“A successful foreign policy means increasing enemies’ expenses, and if the United States violated the joint comprehensive plan of action [or the nuclear deal], they will pay the highest price and Iran will pay the lowest price,” he said during a provincial visit.


Saeed Kamali Dehghan in London and Julian Borger in Washington DC

The GuardianTramp

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