Iran threatens EU troops in Middle East after E3 nations pressure Tehran on nuclear accord
LONDON - Iranian President Hassan Rohani warned that European troops in the Middle East “may be in danger” after Britain, France and Germany challenged Tehran over exceeding the limits of its 2015 nuclear agreement. He also boasted there was “no limit” to Iran’s enrichment of uranium.
European countries have troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and other regional countries where they often operate alongside much larger US deployments. Iran is allied with armed proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
The threat was made by Rohani after European countries started a dispute process over Iran breaking limits from the accord. It marked the first time Rohani threatened Europe amid tensions with the United States, which unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May 2018.
“Today, the American soldier is in danger. Tomorrow the European soldier could be in danger,” Rohani said at a January 15 cabinet meeting.
Britain, France and Germany — the so-called E3 — spent months trying to accommodate Iran and preserve the 2015 nuclear deal but, on January 14, the European Union initiated a dispute resolution mechanism to force Iran into compliance after Tehran began openly breaching restrictions last summer.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was time for a “Trump deal” — a reference to US President Donald Trump — to replace it.
Iran accused Europeans of yielding to US pressure to impose a 25% tariff on European automobile imports if they did not formally accuse Iran of breaking the nuclear deal.
“Appeasement confirmed. E3 sold out remnants of #JCPOA to avoid new Trump tariffs. It won’t work my friends. You only whet his appetite. Remember your high school bully?” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter.
The dispute mechanism begins a complex diplomatic process that could result in UN sanctions on Iran “snapping back” into place. In triggering the dispute mechanism, the European countries said they were not backing a US policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran and they hoped to salvage the nuclear deal.
Iran says it should not be bound to the agreement since the United States reimposed crippling sanctions.
“We are enriching more uranium than before the deal was reached,” Rohani said in a televised speech. “Pressure has increased on Iran but we continue to progress.”
Rohani said January 16 that there was “no limit” to Iran’s enrichment of uranium following its decision to abandon its nuclear agreement commitments in response to the killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in a US air strike January 3.
In a speech before the heads of banks, Rohani said the nuclear programme is in a “better situation” than it was before the nuclear agreement.
US sanctions, however, continue to hammer Iran’s economy. Washington had aimed to reduce Tehran’s oil exports to zero.
A report from the Institute of International Finance, a global association of financial institutions, estimated that Iran’s economy will contract more than 7% in the fiscal year that ends in March, mostly because of the drop in crude oil exports.
(With news agencies)