UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Iran said on Wednesday it did not expect the United States to abandon the Iranian nuclear deal as U.S. officials sent mixed signals on what they plan to do about the international accord.
A collapse of the 2015 deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump has called “an embarrassment” but which is supported by the other major powers that negotiated it with Iran, could upend relations in the Middle East and trigger a regional arms race.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed that his country would not be the first to violate the agreement under which Tehran agreed to restrict its nuclear program in return for the loosening of economic sanctions that had crippled its economy.
“We don’t think Trump will walk out of the deal despite (his) rhetoric and propaganda,” Rouhani told reporters on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders. He also ruled out the idea of renegotiating the pact.
“Either the nuclear deal remains as it is or it will collapse,” he added.
Trump, who on Tuesday called the pact “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” told reporters he had made up his mind whether to keep the pact but declined to disclose his decision.
Trump must decide by Oct. 15 whether to certify that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink the deal. If he does not, the U.S. Congress has 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the accord.
A senior U.S. official said Trump is leaning toward not certifying that Iran is complying with the pact and letting Congress effectively decide whether to kill the agreement.
The official said Trump could always change his mind before the deadline and noted he publicly and privately has fumed about the deal, feeling the United States was taken advantage of.
A source familiar with the U.S. discussions said the Trump administration is also considering ways to leave the agreement intact, sanction Iran for its missile tests and support for extremist groups, and then seek to strengthen the pact.
Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly of world leaders, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded forcefully to Trump’s pugnacious speech on Tuesday by saying Iran would not be pushed around by a relative newcomer to the world stage.