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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Iran: Trump doesn't have 'mental capacity' to deal with issues

Members of Iran's parliament burnt an American flag and a symbolic copy of the Iran deal after Mr Trump's decision to withdraw from the international agreement

Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani holds a news conference in Istanbul on January 22, 2015. Osman Orsal / Reuters
Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani holds a news conference in Istanbul on January 22, 2015. Osman Orsal / Reuters

US President Donald Trump is not fit for his job, the speaker of Iran's parliament said on Wednesday, according to the website of the Iranian judiciary, in Tehran's most personal criticism since Mr Trump's decision to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear pact.

"Trump does not have the mental capacity to deal with issues," parliament speaker Ali Larijani said on the judiciary's website, Mizan.

Members of parliament burnt an American flag and a symbolic copy of the Iran deal, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a session of parliament began. They also chanted "Death to America", according to the Iranian Students' News Agency.

Iran's Tasnim news site reported that Mr Larijani also said the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran should be ready to resume all nuclear activities.

Gen Mohammad Baqeri, the chief of staff of Iran's military, said Iran did not have to sign the deal. "But that arrogant country [America] did not even stand by its signature," the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted him as saying.

President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday Iran would remain committed to the multinational nuclear deal, designed to deny Tehran the ability to build nuclear weapons, despite Mr Trump's decision to withdraw from it.

"If we achieve the deal's goals in co-operation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place. By exiting the deal, America has officially undermined its commitment to an international treaty," Mr Rouhani said in a televised speech.

"I have ordered the foreign ministry to negotiate with the European countries, China and Russia in coming weeks. If at the end of this short period we conclude that we can fully benefit from the JCPOA with the co-operation of all countries, the deal would remain," he added.

The JCPOA was struck in 2015 between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – and Germany.

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Mr Trump's decision sets the stage for a resurgence of political infighting within Iran’s complex power structure, Iranian officials told Reuters. It could tip the balance of power in favour of hardliners looking to constrain Mr Rouhani's ability to open up to the West.

"They will blame Rouhani. They will continue their shenanigans at home and abroad. And they will have the US to blame for the failure of the economy," said Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies programme at Stanford University.

Mr Rouhani assured ordinary Iranians, frustrated by high unemployment and stagnant living standards, that Mr Trump's decision would have no impact on Iran's oil-reliant economy.

"Our heroic people will not be affected by this psychological attack … Iran's economic progress will continue. Our people should not be worried at all," he said.

Iran's ruling elite fears a revival of anti-government protests in January that revealed the establishment was vulnerable to popular anger fuelled by economic hardship. At least 21 people were killed in the protests.

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Mr Trump said in a tougher-than-expected statement he would reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran immediately. His decision puts pressure on his European allies, which are key backers of the deal and are reluctant to join the US in reimposing sanctions on Iran.

The US Treasury said in a statement on its website the US would reimpose a wide array of Iran-related sanctions after the expiry of 90 and 180-day wind-down periods, including sanctions aimed at Iran's oil sector and transactions with its central bank.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose hostility towards Washington is the glue that holds together Iran’s faction-ridden leadership, had said Iran would "shred" the deal if the US pulled out.

Mr Rouhani warned that Iran was ready to resume its curbed nuclear activities if Iran's interests were not guaranteed under a deal without the US.

"If needed, we will resume our nuclear enrichment at the industrial level without any limit," Mr Rouhani said. "From now on, everything depends on Iran's national interests."

Under the 2015 deal, Iran stopped producing 20 per cent enriched uranium and gave up the majority of its stockpile in return for most international sanctions on it being lifted.

"In response to US persistent violations & unlawful withdrawal from the nuclear deal, as instructed by President Rouhani, I'll spearhead a diplomatic effort to examine whether remaining JCPOA participants can ensure its full benefits for Iran. Outcome will determine our response," Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said on Twitter.

Mr Trump's announcement was hailed by Washington's principal allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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