Iran rejects idea of a new 'Trump deal' in nuclear row
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed on Jan. 15 a proposal for a new "Trump deal" aimed at resolving a nuclear row, saying it was a "strange" offer and criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump for always breaking promises.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has praised Trump as a great dealmaker, called on Jan. 14 for the president to replace Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers with his own new pact to ensure Tehran does not get an atomic weapon.
Trump said he agreed with Johnson that a "Trump deal" should replace the Iran nuclear deal. In a televised speech, Rouhani told Washington to return to the nuclear pact, which Washington abandoned in 2018, under which Tehran curbed its nuclear work in return for the lifting of international sanctions on Iran.
Since quitting the agreement, Washington has reimposed sanctions to throttle Iran's oil exports as part of a "maximum pressure" policy.
The United States says its aim is force Tehran to agree a broader deal that puts stricter limits on its nuclear work, curbs its ballistic missile program and ends its regional proxy wars. Iran says it will not negotiate as long as sanctions remain in place.
Tehran has gradually taken steps to reduce its compliance with the deal, which prompted Britain, France and Germany to formally accuse it on Jan. 14 of violating the terms.
"This Mr. Prime Minister in London, I don't know how he thinks. He says let's put aside the nuclear deal and put the Trump plan in action," Rouhani said.
"If you take the wrong step, it will be to your detriment. Pick the right path. The right path is to return to the nuclear deal."
Iran denies any intent to acquire nuclear weapons and says its breaches of the deal would be reversed if Washington lifts sanctions. "All of our activities are under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA)," said Rouhani.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Reuters that the deal was still alive: "No, it's not dead. It's not dead," Zarif said on the sidelines of a conference in New Delhi.
But he told the conference Trump's withdrawal from the earlier deal made new negotiations with Washington pointless: "I had a U.S. deal and the U.S. broke it. If I have a Trump deal, how long will it last?"
In its biggest step away from the agreement yet, Iran announced on Jan. 5 it would abandon all limitations on enriching uranium set down in the pact.
Britain, France, and Germany reacted by activating a dispute mechanism in the deal on Jan. 14, which eventually could lead to the reimposing of U.N. sanctions. Iran called this step a "strategic mistake".
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Washington now expects the U.N. sanctions to "snap back into place" as a result of the European move. The European countries have said that it is not their goal.
Rouhani upbraided European powers for not standing up to Trump. Iran says the Europeans have reneged on promises to find ways to circumvent the U.S. sanctions.
The flare-up in nuclear diplomacy comes as military confrontation between Washington and Tehran has also reached a new peak.
The United States killed an Iranian general in a drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. Tehran responded a week ago by launching missiles at U.S. targets in Iraq.
Rouhani repeated Iran's longstanding position that peace can come to the Middle East only when the United States withdraws.
"American soldiers today are not secure in the region ... We don't want there to be insecurity in the world. We want you to go from here, but not with war. We want you to leave the region intelligently and it's to your benefit," Rouhani said.
No Americans were hurt during the attack, but hours later Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner in what its authorities have acknowledged as a tragic mistake, prompting anti-government protests at home.
Zelenskiy asks for Germany's support to bring perpetrators to justice
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Jan. 15 asked Chancellor Angela Merkel for Germany's support in bringing the perpetrators of last week's plane crash in Iran to justice, according to a statement issued by Zelenskiy's office.
After initially denying blame, Iran acknowledged on Jan. 11 that it had mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane, killing all 176 people on board shortly after it took off from Tehran for Kiev.
Zelenskiy said in a phone call with Merkel that he expects the perpetrators to be prosecuted and the families and airline to be compensated.
"The President of Ukraine called on Germany to contribute politically to this process," the statement said.
Interfax Ukraine said on Jan. 15 that Ukraine is trying to establish whether Iran will hand over the black boxes from a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed in Iran last week, citing a senior Ukrainian prosecutor.
An Iranian investigator was meant to visit Ukraine on Jan. 15 to check whether a Ukrainian laboratory could decode the black boxes but did not arrive, said Polina Chyzh, head of the Department of International Legal Cooperation and Asset Recovery at the Prosecutor General's office.
Chyzh said Iran had not officially answered a Ukrainian request for access to the black boxes, prompting Ukraine to make a second request.
Social media posts call for more protests after plane disaster
In the meantime, Iranians called on social media on Jan. 15 for fresh demonstrations a week after the shooting down of a passenger plane, seeking to turn the aftermath of the crash into a sustained campaign against Iran's leadership.
Protesters, with students at the forefront, have staged daily rallies in Tehran and other cities since Jan. 11.
"We're coming to the streets," one posting circulating on social media said on Wednesday, urging people to join nationwide demonstrations against a "thieving and corrupt government".
Most of those killed on the plane were Iranians or dual citizens, many of them students returning to studies abroad from holiday visits with their families.
It remains to be seen whether the protests will lead to sustained violence. After several days of unrest, when images posted to the internet showed demonstrators being beaten by the police and shocked with electric batons, protests on Jan. 14 appear to have been quieter. Two months ago, authorities killed hundreds of demonstrators to put down protests sparked by fuel price hikes.
Thousands of protesters have been shown in videos gathering in the past four days in cities across Iran. Many have been outside universities. Tehran's central Azadi Square has also been a focus. But the scale of protests and unrest is difficult to determine due to restrictions on independent reporting.
State-affiliated media has offered few details on rallies.