Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said today that Tehran will not renegotiate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – the nuclear accord Iran signed with world powers in July 2015. “Some want to have J.C.P.O.A.’s technical dimensions renegotiated, but this agreement is not open for negotiation,” he said in an interview with an Iranian state-run news agency. Salehi, who is in Italy to attend the International Conference on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, added that other signatories of the J.C.P.O.A. have also made it clear that the accord is non-negotiable. “If America abandons the J.C.P.O.A. and other countries follow it, the J.C.P.O.A. will certainly fall apart. But if only America leaves the J.C.P.O.A., our country’s committee monitoring the J.C.P.O.A. should take a decision in this regard,” he added.
The top Iranian nuclear official stressed that the best option is for all to remain committed to the agreement, reasoning that the J.C.P.O.A. is helping regional issues and is strengthening the non-proliferation regime. He further warned that if Washington scraps the deal, it would discourage other countries such as North Korea to settle their differences with the United States through diplomacy. “We advise staying in the J.C.P.O.A. and renegotiation is not acceptable by Iran, as the officials such as foreign minister have repeatedly announced that we will never discuss J.C.P.O.A. again,” AEOI chief said.
Comment: Salehi’s remarks come as President Donald Trump reportedly plans to decertify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal next week. According to media reports, the administration will argue that the accord is not in the U.S. national interest, leaving it to Congress to decide whether the United States should remain a party to the deal. Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose pre- J.C.P.O.A. sanctions that have been waived part of the nuclear deal.
Several senior members of the Trump administration, particularly U.S. Ambassador to U.N. Nikki Haley, have accused Iran of violating the “spirit” of the deal by continuing its controversial ballistic missile program and playing a destabilizing role in the Middle East. They have also raised concern about sunset provisions within the accord that allow Iran to resume nuclear enrichment after a decade. While Washington wants to renegotiate certain aspects of the nuclear deal to address these concerns, Iranian leaders have repeatedly said that they are not open to renegotiate the deal or the country’s missile activity. Tehran has also rejected calls for international inspectors to visit the country’s military sites for any potential covert nuclear program.
If U.S. Congress reinstates nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, the U.S. will literally abandons the deal. Iranian officials have said that they are mulling different options if U.S. leaves the accord. These options include leaving the accord and resume high-level nuclear enrichment, or stay in the deal and work with European powers, China, Russia and others to “isolate” the United States.