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'Leave Mideast!' Rouhani Tells Europe After EU-3 Resort To Trigger Mechanism

Iranian President Hassan Rohani chairs a cabinet meeting in Tehran on January 15, 2020

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has once again sent mixed messages to the West, reiterating that the reductions in Tehran's obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal are reversible but indirectly threatening Europe.

Rouhani on January 15 called on Western forces to leave the Middle East and warned that "the Middle East could become unsafe for European soldiers in the same way it is insecure for U.S. troops."

Rouhani made the statement one day after the three European parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) resorted to a dispute settlement mechanism in the agreement to save the collapsing nuclear deal.

The Guardian wrote on January 14 that UK, France and Germany have started "a process that could lead to United Nations sanctions being re-imposed on Iran." The Guardian added that the measure could lead to the collapse of the JCPOA after triggering the deal’s dispute resolution mechanism, also called the Trigger Mechanism.

Based on article 37 of the JCPOA, in the worst-case scenario, Iran's case could be then handed over to the UN Security Council which might reactivate all of the sanctions it temporarily lifted after the 2015 agreement.

The trigger mechanism can be activated if any one of the three European signatories of JCPOA (the United Kingdom, Germany, and France) decides that Iran has violated the agreement. In that case, the matter will be handed over to the UN Security Council within 65 days and the body could order a swift return of all international sanctions against Tehran.

The paper quoted European officials, however, that the move was taken "more in sorrow than anger" while expressing concern over the fact that "Iran might be less than a year away from possessing the capacity to develop a nuclear bomb."

This is a concern shared by the United States and its President Donald Trump who has raised the issue several times during the past years while stressing that Washington will make sure that Iran will not be capable of developing a nuclear bomb.

Reports on January 15 quoted the Israeli army estimates that said "The Islamic Republic of Iran will be capable of producing enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb by the end of 2020 and a missile capable of carrying a nuclear bomb within the next two years."

Trump has also voiced concern about Iran's ballistic missile development program and its regional ambitions many times particularly after May 2018 when he left the JCPOA and imposed more sanctions on Iran while also re-imposing previous sanctions that had been lifted after the 2015 deal.

Yet another concern Trump has raised about the Iran nuclear deal relates to Iran’s ability to buy and sell weapons. Iran will be able to purchase weapons to boost the power of its arsenal starting from 2021.

In October 2021 on the fifth anniversary of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) so-called “Adoption Day,” an international embargo on military-related transfers to and from Iran will end. Before this happens, Washington can take action to extend the UN-based arms embargo, as well as reinforce its policy of sanctioning Iranian arms transfers.

Rouhani said on Wednesday he has told two European heads of state that Europe and the United States should return to their initial commitments in the JCPOA. He said he has told the European leaders that Iran's reduction of its obligations is reversible, and its nuclear activities are being inspected by the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA.

Without naming the European leaders he has spoken to, Rouhani said he has told them allegations about Iran being after nuclear weapons are baseless.

Calling Boris Johnson "this Prime Minister gentleman in London," Rouhani said: "He said let us set aside the JCPOA and have a Trump Deal. What has Trump done other than breaking promises?"

Meanwhile, Rouhani warned European leaders that "the Middle East could become unsafe for European soldiers in the same way it is insecure for U.S. troops if you take the wrong step."

He also accused Europe of fearing the United States and being powerless before it. "What were you able to do after the U.S. withdrawal from the climate deal, NATO, Human Rights Council and UNESCO?"

Rouhani also made a subtle threat calling for the withdrawal of Western forces from the Middle East. "We want you to leave the region without war. Leave wisely and this is in your interest. Take a path that would be in the interest of the world and the region," he said.