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Salehi Says If Only The U.S. Quits Nuclear Deal, Iran Can Stay

Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency Ali Akbar Salehi. File photo.

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, has said that if the United States leaves the landmark nuclear deal signed in 2015, but other signatories remain committed, Iran will “most probably” uphold the agreement.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, Salehi says that Iran wants to adhere to the agreement even if the U.S. withdraws, but a total collapse of the deal could lead to a nuclear arms race.

The July 2015 agreement between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers, Iran gave up most of its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of crippling banking and economic sanctions.

In his interview, Salehi accuses the U.S. of trying to scare foreign investors away from Iran. He reiterates that if the U.S. acts on its threats and reinstates nuclear related sanctions, “we will then have to face a very different situation.”

In the interview, Salehi also claims that if the nuclear agreement collapses, “our partners in this treaty have more to lose than we do.”

Pressed to explain, Salehi links the Iran situation with the ongoing North Korean tensions.

“If the nuclear agreement collapses, there will be no chance for a settlement of North Korea's nuclear issue. Pyongyang would say, well, they broke the nuclear deal with Tehran, how can we trust them?” Salehi argues.

In another part of the interview, Salehi criticizes Saudi Arabia’s policies in the last few years, as a vein attempt to prevent Iran’s regional influence. He calls the Saudi concerns as a “preposterous illusion”.

Since Iran’s deep involvement in Iraq, Yemen and in Syria’s civil war, regional Sunni states have become extremely wary of Iran’s long-term intentions.

Israel has also recently come to see Iran’s expanding presence in Syria as a direct threat to its security.

The U.S. also has voiced its misgivings about Iran’s missile program and its support for groups accused of involvement in terrorism.